By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
The global pandemic pushed organisations to respond quickly to address the unforeseen changes and challenges, and restructuring human resource (HR) practices to align with the ‘new normal’ remains one of the biggest hurdles companies face, a PwC study revealed. Alongside the restructuring, local businesses revealed that they found it essential to deal with the emotional and mindset changes of their employees so that staff shall be able to remain motivated and willing to resume work without hesitation. In doing so, elimination of the fear factor and panic mode of staff is crucial to rebuild their work morale, the ‘Beyond COVID-19: Thriving in a post-crisis workplace in Sri Lanka PwC HR Leaders’ Pulse Survey,’ revealed. The survey, which concluded on June 2, 2020 captured insights from more than 90 business leaders and HR personnel from a variety of industries, including banking and finance, IT, manufacturing, consumer and retail, real estate and property.
The findings of the survey, which was published yesterday, highlighted that a major challenge faced by HR personnel is paying wages without any reductions or layoffs, and keeping all employees actively engaged in the workplace.
“Enterprises are also challenged with managing employee demands such as compensation deferments, execution of work from home productively and managing that to meet expectations of management,” the study noted.
In the process of restructuring, some HR leaders affirmed the personal challenges and stress of employees, especially due to uncertainty about the global business arena, during these unprecedented times.
With regard to the manner in which work is carried out, highlighted were logistics, legal and supplier issues such as Internet bandwidth issues to facilitate work from home. Legal, government and financial institution requirements for hard copies with wet signatures, and vendors and suppliers not geared to provide services remotely were also areas that hampered remote working. PwC stated it is apparent that 82 percent of business leaders and HR personnel who took part in the survey, believe that their training budget reduction would be less than 40 percent, showing that although times have changed employee training and upskilling still remain crucial for their business to stay ahead in the corporate world.
“It is evident that major focus areas for improvement for HR leaders was to stay ahead of the crowd through innovation and creativity, therefore strategic and design thinking, decision making, creative problem solving along with digital transformation were some of the top-of-mind areas of HR leaders,” the study said,
PwC added that it is evident that most companies are looking at new ways of coping with the new normal, to emerge stronger in the long-term.
Meanwhile, the secondary areas of concern for HR of leaders were to mitigate internal problems such as risks and financial problems faced by companies.
While globally, it is believed that 20-40 percent of the jobs currently held by 16-24 year olds may be automated by the mid-2030s, PwC stated it is surprising that many Sri Lankans are “not very keen” on developing their technology side such as automation, artificial intelligence, cyber security and data analytics. However, this could be due to a number of reasons such as cash flow pressures, focus on core business segments, and expertise, among others, the study noted.