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Adapting To HR in The Age of The New Normal

13th May 2021
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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to subside thanks to the distribution of vaccines, many businesses are looking to adapt their processes to the age of the ‘new normal.’ Already commonplace company activities like team lunches, afternoon beers in the office and workplace activities feel as though they were the product of a dream rather than reality. 

The transition towards remote work has made life before the pandemic difficult to remember, with brand new challenges facing employees and businesses alike in terms of juggling the use of offices combined with living spaces and collaborating in out-of-office environments. 

The transition towards the new normal means that the role that HR departments play in steering businesses in the right direction is vital. HR strategies must account for the changing challenges of employees and businesses and show sufficient adaptability in ensuring high levels of employee cohesion, onboarding and recruitment in brand new circumstances. 


(Image: TINYpulse)

As we can see from the data above, the top employee concerns surrounding COVID-19 revolve around the pandemic’s impact on the company, job security, safety and positivity. Some HR departments are approaching working life after the pandemic in different ways, with small gestures like offering monetary allowances to help employees create a prosperous working environment going a long way. 

However, when it comes to tackling issues of mental health and keeping staff motivated, engaged and productive, it can be more tricky to understand what works and what doesn’t in the age of the new normal. With this in mind, let’s take a deeper look into how companies are adapting to the changing employment landscape as we begin our transition into the new normal. 

Prioritising Business Continuity

In the first wave of lockdowns, many businesses may have found themselves being caught flat-footed by the pandemic. Suddenly, companies that had always relied on in-house collaboration were looking at ways to conduct themselves in an entirely remote environment. New employees had to be hired and onboarded via video calls and contracts needed to be signed when parties weren’t present in the same room. These vital requirements led to a surge in digital transformation within companies. 

However, the pandemic has also shown how far behind many businesses are in terms of digital transformation. Some companies have struggled to modernise its paper-based HR processes in signing off bonuses and changes to employee contracts - leading to delayed payments and widespread confusion. 

Investing in technology to support better collaboration would pay dividends in helping to avoid confusing situations in the future, and will also help businesses to reap the productivity long into the future - regardless of whether a return to the office is on the cards in the era of the new normal or not. 

Dr Florian Dreifus, COO of SuccessFactors, notes that many organisations will opt to keep working on a remote basis on a larger scale as we move away from the pandemic and towards the new normal. With 40% of Americans intending to work from home at least sometimes following the pandemic, up from just 7% before the health crisis, it’s clear that interest in remote work is only getting stronger. With this in mind, any investment in technology that enables remote work will not only help to secure your business continuity against future disruption, but it also plays into the hands of a growing number of employees looking for greater flexibility. 

Transforming Recruitment

Organisations are increasingly looking to redefine their recruitment processes in a bid to move towards a more cost-effective and efficient operating model. This means potentially hiring applicants with more transferable skills who are capable of working in a more dynamic working environment prone to change and transformation. 

This may also mean looking to recruit more technically savvy employees who are seamlessly capable of operating from home without any technical help. HR departments would also be wise to utilise the gig economy more effectively in the future by hiring subcontractors or contingent workers who can do tasks on a temporary basis. 

Pandemic job market

(Image: Minimalist Millennial)

HR departments need to consider their recruitment and sourcing strategies to optimise productivity and efficiency. The long term success of remote work in the age of the new normal will open the door to more alternative recruitment strategies, like virtual hiring and onboarding. 

Emerging technology like AI, augmented reality and virtual reality can be used alongside big data to bring more efficiency to the recruitment process, helping to pave the way for bias-free decisions and aiding the process in which the right candidate can be found. 

The future could even see blockchain technology used for conducting background checks while employers can access immutable applicant credentials and historical records. 

HR departments could also begin to work on hiring and onboarding employees from all around the world, opening the door to a significantly wider pool of talent. Adverts could be placed on company websites in various locations around the world, while the suitability of adverts can be monitored through the use of analytics platforms like Google Analytics and Finteza. This way employers can monitor traffic analytics to gauge interest and the different devices used for browsing to optimise adverts for certain locations. 

Valuing The Importance of Worker Wellbeing

Companies that undergo significant digital transformation need an HR department that respects the impact that these changes may have on worker wellbeing. 

Today, more than ever, the future of work equates to the future of worker wellbeing. With the growth of the digital economy and working from home meaning that employees have fewer opportunities to fully switch off by logging off and leaving the office, and the stress associated with work-life integration and dealing with the pandemic, the role HR can play in aiding worker wellbeing has never been more imperative. 


(Image: McKinsey)

Businesses that readily embrace digital transformation and communicate their new normal policies clearly are seeing far-reaching benefits in employee well-being - making transparency between businesses, HR, and workers essential. 

“We are committed to helping build our people’s wellbeing and we define this to include their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being,” explained Cecilia Tse, Wellbeing Strategy Leader at PwC. “But we are going beyond viewing wellbeing as a perk, we are being prescriptive to provide our people guidance and suggestions for habits they can consider forming in each of these areas on our PwC Be well, work well Habit Bank.”

As we transition aware from the age of the pandemic and towards the age of the new normal, employee stresses and insecurities will move away from the impact of the health crisis and towards concerns relating to a life spent working from home. It’s up to HR departments to anticipate these changes in employee wellness and address them at scale. 

By incorporating more opportunities to collaborate, interact, and enjoy downtime together in remote environments, employees can build essential rapports with their colleagues and ease their insecurities surrounding the company. As new technology comes into play and both AR and VR wearables become more commonplace, it’s likely that collaboration will become more seamless in the way businesses conduct themselves in the future. For now, it falls on the adaptability of HR departments globally to manage this ongoing seismic shift in the employment landscape. By embracing technology and the changing attitudes of workers, your HR processes will be all set for the age of the new normal.

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