The world of HR has been in constant flux for decades. The workforce is constantly changing, HR technology is improving and the way we work is shifting as well. But one of the biggest drivers of change in the near future has been brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. So what does HR management look like in a post-pandemic world? 

Important HR statistics during the pandemic

The pandemic changed the way we work and continues to disrupt workplaces, even as many parts of the world are returning to this ‘new normal’. According to McKinsey research, 25% more workers will need to start adjusting to remote work in the future. In the UAE, many workplaces are already starting to think about permanent flexible work arrangements. 

Work places are also having to adjust into deeper technology hybrid model. IBM’s research in the UAE highlights how many organizations are now looking to implement technology initiatives that were previously overlooked. What’s more, workspaces are starting to understand the importance of workplace enjoyment and wellbeing. 

Challenges faced by HR during COVID-19

The pandemic brought about very specific challenges to the HR department. Here is a mention of the top five challenges faced by HR during Covid-19:

  1. Digitization of the recruitment process

The pandemic moved everything online. Suddenly, you didn’t have the option to have face-to-face meetings, not even during the recruitment process. Much of recruitment had already been moving in the online space but this digitization sped up during the pandemic. 

  1. Employee engagement

Of course, the ways you engaged your employees also shifted. Employee performance reviews and employee queries all had to be dealt with digitally. You couldn’t just pop into the office to see what is happening. In fact, reaching out to employees became much harder with everyone working from home. 

  1. Rules and regulations

The UAE also faced unique challenges regarding the rules and regulations for work-from-home. Because the law wasn’t clear about the rules and regulations regarding flexible work, the government had to quickly create changes to the legislature. All of this created new challenges for the HR department to navigate in. 

  1. Hiring

As mentioned above, hiring proved to be a big challenge during the pandemic. Not only did it get digitised, but HR professionals also had to deal with a new employee market. People were reluctant to find a job in certain industries while others struggled to keep up the demand. 

  1. Managing remote work

Many of the challenges during the pandemic boiled down to the nature of remote work. The majority of companies hadn’t tried remote work previously, and suddenly everyone was forced to do it. Companies suddenly had to manage employees that might respond to remote work differently. 

Best post-pandemic HR advice for businesses

The challenges are real but they are there for the HR department to overcome. What should companies do to reach HR solutions? There are four essential rules to help respond to the above challenges and manage the future of work: 

  1. Flexible work policies

The pandemic has intensified and exacerbated many of the employee experience challenges facing modern businesses, largely because the nature of how and where people work has dramatically altered. That’s why nearly half (48%) of HR leaders are now thinking more deeply about flexible work arrangements.

But perhaps more importantly, the idea of an effective employer has also changed. As a result, HR teams are having to focus more on higher-value initiatives and activities (such as culture, health, and emotional wellbeing) in order to attract and retain employees.

They’re having to revitalize the experiential element of work life – all while competing for talent on a global scale. With a massive 95% of workers considering changing jobs, the pressure is on to consistently deliver the best possible workplace experience.

Arguably the biggest challenge facing companies in today’s ultra-competitive business landscape is retaining their top talent. Our data shows that less than one quarter (23%) of UAE employees stay with their company for more than five years, with 53% staying for three years or less.

The issue is that hiring new employees can have a significant financial and cultural impact. Other employees who see high turnover tend to disengage, while it’s estimated that replacing an employee costs 33% of an employee’s annual salary.

The key to countering employee attrition is implementing policies and processes that help build a clear, consistent, and inclusive workplace culture. This can be as simple as establishing values that are easily understood by everyone and actionable in daily work or encouraging employees to take time off and work in a more flexible manner as part of a healthy work-life balance

By building an inclusive culture that makes employees feel supported and empowered, HR teams, will be rewarded with a loyal and engaged workforce.

  1. Technology, supplies and data protection

HR professionals also must finally find a way to include technology to everything they do. 

HR teams should look to mobile apps and cloud-based platforms to plug the gap, increase productivity and enhance the workplace experience. This is particularly important for millennials, who are used to the flexibility and autonomy that digital tools provide. Providing a mobile app to request leave, access insurance policies, track reimbursements and manage payslips can completely transform employees’ work life experience and boost engagement.

  1. Payroll considerations

Inefficient HR and payroll processes can have a significant impact on employee satisfaction and engagement. In the UAE, employees submit 12-23 reimbursement requests per year, most commonly related to fuel (35%) and travel (25%).

However, a recent SAP Concur survey found that 24% of business travellers would rather have a cavity filled than complete an expense report. This highlights the need for businesses to modernize and centralize. Businesses must make it easier for employees to manage work administration and complete key processes such as expense reimbursements.

Today’s employees are looking for more than just a paycheck. They want to get more out of their working lives, with 32% of employees saying benefits are now equally as important as salary. 

HR teams must therefore focus on redefining work life by simplifying access to employee benefits that go beyond the workplace. This could include offering bespoke medical insurance and telemedicine offerings or providing a range of physical and mental health services through digital platforms.

Or, businesses could focus more on financial wellbeing, such as by increasing access to special rates and discounts on offerings like car insurance, gym memberships, and restaurants. It could also include higher-value offerings such as consultations with financial advisors.

Ultimately, HR teams have a significant opportunity to extend their influence and truly make themselves the heroes of their organizations. By using digital tools and platforms to ease the burden of HR and insurance admin, HR teams will be able to dedicate more time to what is truly important in a post-pandemic world. Namely driving employee engagement in the UAE, supporting their people, and building the right culture. 

  1. Employee management 

Relationships with management are the top factor in employees’ job satisfaction, meaning they have a vital role to play in maintaining company culture, supporting employees, and driving a positive workplace experience. 

However, a bad manager can be a major detriment. Poor management commonly leads to low employee engagement, decreased productivity, and reduced job satisfaction – illustrated by the fact that 63% of those with a bad manager are thinking of leaving their job in the next 12 months.

HR teams must therefore give managers the support to improve, such as through management training programs. Managers must be taught how to set goals, motivate their team members, and effectively communicate with modern employees. Training should also focus on areas such as empathy, emotional wellbeing, skills coaching, and empowerment.

Finally, without the traditional office environment, it’s vital that managers are equipped with the skills to re-design roles and provide employees with the task variety and significance that they are now looking for.

The issue of employee burnout has become acutely clear during the pandemic. According to the results of a recent study among UAE employees:

  • 95% claim to have an always-on working environment
  • 71% say they are working longer hours
  • 68% suffer from work-related stress

HR leaders must therefore take steps to prevent burnout by prioritizing employees’ mental health and wellbeing. For example, vacation time offers one way for employees to switch off from work, yet our data shows that 54% of leave requests in the UAE are tied to just three days or less. Introducing policies such as ‘duvet days’ or simply placing extra value on vacation time can help ensure employees get the breaks they need.

HR teams can also use modern HR platforms to offer access to services such as confidential one-on-one sessions with certified therapists or use mobile apps to provide a platform for physical activities and competitions.

HR management in a post-pandemic world will take a lot from professionals. But with the right approach and commitment to solving employee problems, it is possible to succeed. The above pandemic HR advice for business owners can help your company work in these challenging conditions. 

Overall, it’s important to put automation at the heart of what your HR department does – take a look at the tools from Bayzat to get started with solving the above challenges!

Want to learn how to transform your operations and reach heroic HR status? Download our HR handbook now.

HR strategy Ebook

Taronish Dastoor