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Independence is our strength – covering the issues that directly impact on those with the duty of directing human resources

 October 2020 – Issue 192

Although Coronavirus seems to be dictating the narrative of our time, with all the subjects being covered in this issue, it’s important not to just frame it in the current landscape, but to look towards the future, where we will all return to relative normality. We look forward to your synopsis for potential articles in this issue.

Developing a more collaborative HR
In these times, we have witnessed the best and worst of humanity. The best resulted from people coming together, the worst is the toxic residue of division. As all focus turns to finding solutions to this ongoing crisis that has stopped the world in its tracks, collaboration will be critical and division will lead to prolonged tragedy and delay. As the commercial world slowly and tentatively feels its way out of the shadows and into the light, HR is pivotal to coordinating the human semblance of normal: Utilising the strengths and capabilities of marketing, to create the clear, concise and reassuring balances of caution with confidence. IT will be central to keeping people connected and benefits teams will need to focus on supporting people with the measures that will really make a difference to them. Data teams will be relied upon to coordinate people and time, to optimise performance and assure health and safety is maintained and, at the absolute centre of the effort, leadership must set the high bar in actions and deeds and manage with empathy and care. Meanwhile, agility and innovation can only thrive through collaboration and a culture of equality and inclusion. Here, HR has to show unprecedented courage to hold the line, as businesses are forced to pull focus to survive and compete – potentially at the expense of people – as restrictions are lifted in a precarious gambit where the economy places health and safety hostage to fortune.

Managing Business Growth
“In limbo”, “on the rocks” and “in the doldrums” will be the economy news headlines that will inevitably typify 2020, the year of the unimaginable. Anyone could be forgiven for thinking that business growth would slide off the bottom of the agenda, as firms hunker down and go into survival mode. But if this pandemic has taught anything, it’s that organisations that have adapted well and innovated, have prospered. If that is the case for many frontline operations, then the same applies to other sectors, as they begin to return to normality. We have witnessed innovation, collaboration and adaptability win the day during a horrendous time of social and commercial disruption and here, mindset is equal to capability and skills. We dared to wonder if our generations had what it took to duke it out when the going gets tough – the bulldog spirit from World War II – and we discover that, when the chips are down, people want momentum towards a better outcome and have a positive mindset to fight back and press on. Those two motivations are central to HR’s position at the fulcrum, creating a forward vision that pictures the commercial imperatives and business growth objectives, with people in the future frame.

The changing role of line management
Never has this perennial subject we cover been more pertinent than its scheduled outing in 2020. As every business around the globe has been forced to change the way it operates, for many, remote working has moved from a partial status in some cases, to represent a complete operational framework, with Zoom and its ilk, the day-to-day modus operandi. So, the question has never been more burning than now, how must line management change? When the crisis forced remoteness, it was line managers who were responsible for filling voids and when furlough was rolled out, face questions for which answers didn’t exist. Unquestionably, the subsequent lack of clarity has come to exemplify an erosion of trust and has proved beyond doubt that organisations were unprepared for such scale of disruption. Lockdown scattered teams, statuses were changed overnight and virtual protocol was allowed to develop organically, with all the opportunity for cynicism and siloed thinking to creep in, as employees were left to fill the gaps left by a lack of communication. Miraculously, performance and productivity seemed to remain buoyant – with nothing else to do, those not furloughed just carried on regardless – and it’s been widely reported that many have said that they would prefer to work this way than to return to the drudgery of the commute and nine-to-five. As for the long term of mental health and wellbeing, the full outcome is yet to be revealed, but it is highly likely that the psychological strain imposed by lockdown and all of the repercussions and uncertainty, will cause wide scale decline in mental health. What will be employers’ response to this be? Arming, for want of a better phrase, line managers with soft skills has been an imperative, but in this high stress reality scenario, when it comes to sustaining a positive psychological contract with employees during this time, a high benchmark has not been set. This matters, because organisations still have a fundamental duty of care to the workforce and the current crisis called for more than the bare minimum. 

Corporate strategic alliance
The collective world prays for redemption in the shape of a solution to end the fear and tragedy caused by this omnipresent specter. Concurrently, with unparalleled earnest, scientists, laboratories and drug corporates – normally bitter rivals and guardians of secrets – have collectively agreed that the only way to succeed is through transparency, cohesion, cooperation and strategic alliance. If this succeeds, surely it will stand as the most important result brought through collaboration and certainly a model for commercial endeavour to follow in future. In the past, corporate strategic alliance was – more often than not – an uneasy relationship between two or more parties, to pursue a set of agreed objectives. They generally fell short of a legal partnership entity, agency and corporate affiliation and were usually tetchy marriages of convenience that sometimes even ended acrimoniously with the objective in tatters. Compare and contrast, were that to happen in the pursuit of a vaccine for coronavirus, lives would literally be lost and subsequent delay would cause untold damage to already wrecked economies – the stakes could not be higher. This crucible of hope surely exemplifies a future, where commercial endeavour will rely upon numerous alliances in a complex roster of contributors, where knowledge sharing, transparency and trust will have to be accepted as commonplace culture and procedure. Such change in the corporate mindset is unprecedented and how businesses respond will be the defining difference between those that form part of the future and those that make the footnotes in the past. As with all our subjects this issue, we look forward to your synopsis and will gratefully review each of them for potential inclusion in issue 192.

As with all our subjects this issue, we welcome your expertise and insight in providing guidance to these challenging times.

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