The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted how the workplace functions by digitising interaction between organisations and their internal and external stakeholders.
With employees largely working remotely in a bid to curb transmission of the coronavirus, institutions had to quickly build or refurbish such systems.
Amidst this turmoil, human resource (HR) practitioners need to critically evaluate the agility of their business and offer insights on how the changeover can be achieved while taking care of the interests of an organisation’s main stakeholder: employees.
The most critical aspect of the HR function in the current dispensation is staff wellness in terms of general health and psychosocial support. The severe and unprecedented impact of the pandemic on employees and their families has affected their mental wellbeing. Organisations should support them by providing counselling and other support mechanisms.
The government’s agility in locking the virus out of the workplace, including issuing guidelines on home-based deployment, is commendable. Organisations in the public service should take advantage of the resultant permanent physical and social changes to transform their operations.
Government offices are set up around creating teams through physical interaction. To comply with the Health ministry’s social distancing protocols, seating plans will have to be reviewed with a plausible scenario being a programme where employees alternate between working from home and the premises.
Remote working will translate in cost savings in terms accommodation and utilities costs, and these funds can be deployed to critical development and technical activities which are key to reviving the economy.
Agencies can hire more workers to boost productivity at a much lower cost. However, the restricted physical interaction requires enhanced communication channels with staff through frequent virtual meetings and townhall forums.
Further, the changes present an opportunity to enhance service delivery through digital platforms. Policies on recruitment, placement and induction, performance management, and training and development should be reviewed to accommodate current needs.
It is commendable that the Public Service Commission has been advertising and filling positions by leveraging on technology. Online receipts of applications and virtual interviews be the new norm.
Home-based deployment also calls for enhanced performance management by employees and their supervisors.
To cut on the hefty training and development budget, organisations should shift to e-courses to build the capacity of their workforce. Further, they should empower staff with the necessary tools to work productively from home.
The ICT function, especially, can no longer be put in the back burner. It is a key business driver and, as such, requires increased budgetary allocations and enhanced capacity in terms of numbers and skills development.
We shall look back at Covid-19 as a disruptor that catalysed a better way of living and propelled employers and employees to embrace remote working and digital interactions.
Ms Marete is the human resource and administration manager, Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK). [email protected]