Recovery Mode as the New Normal?

HR Tech Valley helps organizations and companies to relaunch themselves and maintain business advantage.

COVID19 also struck us, yet we believe that in every challenge there lies an opportunity. Instead of rushing into well-known recipes, we tried listening to our community and the market with a non-Academic, professionally inspired, Priority Check Survey.

By asking businesses the most prior challenges that matter to them, right now and in the future, we can steer the market-offer in the right direction and match the right solutions.

I.e. on our most recent online network event MatcHReboot on 25/06/2020.

In this article we will discuss the answers.

123 people participated in the Survey we launched together with the partners of the event. Of these participants, 41% were active for an organization with 50 employees or less and 25% for an organization of 1000 employees or more. The HR Industry had a major stake with 58% of the responses, followed by Public Services with 16%. Both Telecom and the Financial sector excel in absence.

The difference between HR and other industries, or between larger and smaller organizations is striking and signals a divergence in what The New Normal could look like.

Recovery Mode as The New Normal

In general, 58% was heavily impacted by COVID19 and 46% had barely started their Digital Innovation Journey. Yet 61% of respondents has revised their opinion on remote work and digital HR, due to COVID19. Still, it seems like most organizations are set for Recovery.

The conditions created by COVID19 have had an impact on today’s priorities for HR, who now must communicate with their employees to keep them engaged, well and safe - more than ever.

On the other hand, with the pressure on Growth & Sales (55%) as a top priority AND Talent Acquisition (34%) not being equally important, doesn’t that put the pressure on current staff?

Those employees need to be upskilled or reskilled to maintain future relevance. Hereby they absorb company culture and can positively contribute to the new future challenges.

On the medium term, Upskilling and Reskilling establishing its position could refer to the wake-up call some organizations received to install that Lifelong Learning Mindset. Yet, more likely Learning will serve the business goal of changing the company culture to a more digital, customer centric one.

The fallback of Safety & Wellbeing in the future (11%!!) is remarkable considering today’s uncertainties and the growing pressure due to the Sales & Growth priority, which remains important on the medium-term too.

Surprising: HR Analytics not even a medium-term target (11%), yet -in time- could predict outcomes and contribute to strategic workforce planning as the Digital HR Strategy is on top of mind with 33% of the questioned organizations.

It seems almost a natural reaction that most organizations are set for recovery: recover lost growth & sales, become more efficient to recover lost productivity and all of that in a new, more customer-centric, company culture.

The vast majority seems to have set their objectives on the short term to keep those goals on the medium term. It seems like this “Recovery Mode” is becoming “The New Normal”, instead of the leap forward everybody was hoping for.

David is not Goliath

When we look at the Business Priorities at larger organizations we are in for a surprise: no Growth & Sales in the top three priorities for 2020 and beyond! Could it be that larger companies also have a bigger buffer?

It is striking that Engagement and Communication does not remain a top priority for HR in larger companies. Will it be replaced by Employee Experience or is there no need in times of Workforce Management?

Light blue = Large Organisations +1000 FTE

Dark blue = general result

Also, the topic Workforce & HR Strategy is more important in bigger companies now, but not on the medium-term. The long-term winner seems to be again Management & Skills, Reskilling & upskilling – something all organizations agree on – yet larger companies also focus on their management.

With an increasing attention for Workforce Management, Talent Acquisition and Employee Experience the larger companies obviously take a swing towards a total HR approach. Yet why the shallow interest HR Analytics (6%) then?

Still, these companies are digitally pioneering where others follow the mainstream response to COVID19.

HR Industry under pressure

When we compare the HR Industry with the other industries, we see approximately the same differences as we did with the larger companies’ comparison. Considering the number of participants active in the HR Industry, that does not come as a big surprise.

The Survey shows that companies that are not active in the HR Industry attach less importance to Growth & Sales today, which still achieves 35%. It stands out compared to the 71% of the HR Industry that reflected in the general result of 55% for Growth & Sales.

71% of the organisations active in the HR-industry have Growth & Sales as top priority.

Furthermore, Engagement & Communication on the medium term seems far less important to companies who are not active in the HR Industry.

Light blue = Non-HR Industry

Dark blue = general result

With the increasing attention for Growth & Sales and Efficiency & Productivity, the HR Industry reacts like it is under pressure. We would like to point out 3 challenges that could bring the “H” and the “R” out of balance:

1. Workload

The focus is on Growth & Sales AND Talent Acquisition is not equally important. Doesn’t that put the pressure on current staff?

2. Sugarcoated Engagement

It seems that the HR Industry believes they can solve that extra workload with a focus on Engagement & Communication, not on Safety and wellbeing. We wonder what the plan is: talk the stress out of them?

3. Learning Ability

Now with Management & Skills, Upskilling & Reskilling as medium-term top priority on a business level in all industries, how is the HR Industry going to manage to get new information into people’s minds when its staff is under pressure, producing more efficiently for the sake of Growth and Sales?

It is obvious the HR Industry is willing to talk their way out of these challenging times, talking Sales, talking Engagement, talking Safety & Wellbeing, talking Learning & upskilling. Yet, with no to little focus on Workforce & HR Strategy, Talent Acquisition or HR Analytics, the HR Industry seems to have less of a plan compared to others.

Either there already was a plan and despite COVID19 it is still The Plan, which points out the Recovery Mode. Or there is no plan at all and organization is falling back to curative solutions instead of the total HR approach we see in larger companies.

Building tomorrow starts today – but it is still a long way

Building tomorrow starts today

We can see that clearly in the results that organizations are investing in Growth & Sales, Upskilling & Reskilling, Workforce & HR Strategy and Talent Acquisition. Our conclusion is that they are preparing themselves to relaunch on the medium-term when Efficiency & Productivity comes in to play.

But it is still a long way

Well, you can relaunch, reboot, recover or fall back to natural instincts. Yet many organizations are not planning on relaunching or rebooting, their focus lies on recovery. So, no New Normal, but back to the Old Normal as soon as possible.

Remarkably, that does not apply for the larger companies and the ones not active in the HR Industry. They are taking the leap into the future by covering their HR and Business as in a total-approach.

We had hoped that COVID19 had put HR Technology in a supportive position, to help organizations keep business value and relevance in times of lock down. From the survey, it seems that Upskilling and learning will be a long-term objective, while Engagement & Communication only serves the short term.

No New Future of Work (yet)

This does not feel like a New Future of Work to us.

No Agile organizations developing a flexible mindset and strategy to cope with future challenges, tackling HR and Business challenges in a total approach. On the contrary, it looks like more of the Old Normal: short term, curative solutions serving one goal at the time.

We also find it striking that HR Analytics not on the agenda. Nowhere, not even in the HR Industry?? Yet it could save time, win productivity & efficiency, drive growth and so on.

So, to put it short: 58% of the organizations was heavily impacted by COVID19, 46% is nowhere in their Digital Innovation Journey, 61% is reviewing their opinion about (remote) work…. And yet the results show us that the short and mid-term objective of most organizations is Recovery of the Old instead of Building the New.

That makes us wonder… Is unknown also unadmired or is there no vision or long-term strategy? Because if you want do damage-control, or better continue business next time a virus takes control over the world, it might be a better idea to be prepared for the challenges that come along with it.

As this opportunity went by, there is still a long way to go towards a New Future of Work. Yet it does not matter if you are recovering, it is never too late to build sustainable and future proof relationships.

Join our online network event and discover your possibilities. Just #matcHReboot

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Author: Hans Mangelschots, Business Manager HR TECH Valley vzw - 06/2020