There is a controversial point of view arising: HR should have done more to prepare companies for the advent of COVID-19.
“It’s not that HR should have known the pandemic was coming”, they explain. “But isn’t HR about developing new skills for the company?”
Case 1: A company’s Executive Chairman belatedly wakes up to the fact that the new lock-down restrictions are going to severely impact his company’s sales. He calls the head of HR: “Where can I take a crash course on leading a company through a sudden drop in revenue” When the HR Director balks, not knowing where to start, he spends two hours doing Google searches and finally pulls up an old webinar on YouTube…with no help from her.
Case 2: A company is receiving numerous complaints from remote, work-from-home staff. Managers are trying to use Zoom meetings up to 10 times per day to micro-manage their people who were only sent home two weeks ago. The executive team agrees: “No-one knows how to manage without looking over people’s shoulders.” In their meeting they turn to the HR VP – “What are you going to do about this?”
Case 3: “Someone in HR needs to tell Mr. Johnson how to wash his hands.” A complaint has come into the HR Department of the country’s biggest police station. The janitor has been washing his hands the old-fashioned way: occasionally, only taking 2 seconds and not using soap every time. The implication is obvious: if he doesn’t learn COVID-19 level hygiene, he could take down the whole station by allowing the virus to spread via the rest-rooms.
In each of these cases, the content of the learning is not the point. To paraphrase Dwight Eisenhower, “Skills mean nothing. Learning is everything.”
Instead, employees have not learned how to self-learn effectively. Now that COVID-19 has put them under pressure, yawning gaps in their knowledge and skills are evident to them and others. As a result, they are scrambling to teach themselves what they need. Unfortunately, they are struggling.
This is where the critics of HR have a point.
Over the past decade, HR departments have suffered severe budget cuts, so that training and development became a minimal pursuit. In the past, this wasn’t the case: HR used to coordinate 90% or more of the training which took place in companies.
Like good corporate soldiers, HR saluted and executed the new direction faithfully, perhaps believing that it was a temporary situation. But it’s been over a decade since the last recession started. Since then, some argue that:
- HR has become reactive, delivering “only-if-absolutely-needed” development
- Companies have not returned to investing in the development of their HR Departments
- HR has therefore not grown to embrace the technologies needed to access the best content delivered by new channels and platforms
Up until the advent of COVID-19, these trends were developing imperceptibly, slowly. But now, the need for employee self-development is urgent and evident.
In each of the three cases shared above, the long term solution is not for HR to focus on becoming knowledgeable on specific skills. There’s no way to do that for emergencies like COVID-19 or whichever one comes next.
Instead, it must be about teaching people to re-skill themselves. The best approach is, not surprisingly, for HR to re-skill itself.
If you are an HR Professional, what would it be like to start 2022 with a whole new set of self-development tools at your fingertips? What would it be like to be able to re-skill yourself at will?
This is the possibility or vision we are creating here at CaribHRForum for the upcoming year. We want HR Professionals to spend the year putting on their own oxygen mask first, before that of others. In other words, let’s make 2020-21 a time of taking care of our own self-learning first.
The good news is that the webinar on Wednesday night, April 22nd, is our first step in that direction. It will be followed by the launch of three private coaching groups and then the CaribHRForum Virtual Summit 2020 in September.
Come to the webinar “Why HR Fell Behind in Re-Skilling Caribbean Companies” to interact with the region’s HR Professionals on this important topic. Click here to register. Admission is free, but space is limited due to the conference technology being used.
Update: Our special guests on the panel will be Simmone Bowe from the Bahamas and Nazeer Sultan from Trinidad and Tobago.