Organisations need to reassess their HR value propositions in the wake of Covid-19

An HR Indaba Conversation looked at how human capital policies and processes need to be revaluated.

At an HR Indaba Conversation in partnership with Vodacom South Africa, executive director Njabulo Mashigo introduced the session with a short presentation about how Vodacom is repositioning and rebranding itself to be identified as a technology company and major player in the fintech sector.

Then it was on to the business at hand, with everyone agreeing that 2020 is the year most HR practitioners are unlikely to forget. National lockdowns, introduced due to the Covid-19 pandemic, forced new ways of working and communicating, requiring HR teams to move away from their traditional role of a support service, to that of leadership.

In some instances, HR departments took over the traditional role of line managers as they introduced and implemented Covid-19 policies. “We need to hand our [temporary] custodianship back to our customers, especially line managers. We cannot just be implementers,” said panelist Vicky Tlhabanelo, human resources executive at Royal Bafokeng Platinum.

Vicky was one of three HR executives who spoke about how companies can rebuild and move from operating in survival mode. Eighteen months after our first lockdown was introduced, they agree that now is a time for businesses to overhaul their human capital policies, ways of working and the role of HR.

Everyone said employee engagement has been at its highest ever, but the key now is to maintain the momentum to ensure that employees’ needs are informing policies going forward. Gone are the days where HR policies are dictated to employees by management. The model going forward must be more inclusive and be directed by employee’s needs said Verna Robson, Sun International’s group executive: human resources.

“We need to pull line managers into policy-making processes and have policies that speak to people’s preferences,” said Verna. “We need to understand people’s needs and what drives their productivity and give line managers accountability. If you want a hybrid model of work, how do you want to run it? Dictating policy no longer works. Employee needs have come to the forefront. The one-size-fits-all approach no longer works.”

Verna said she is relooking at Sun International’s Employee Value Proposition (EVP) so that it is more employee-centric. “People need to feel seen as full human beings, not just a number. Businesses also need to consider the collective trauma experienced by their employees – through the death of colleagues, loved ones, retrenchment, and unemployment.”

Elanie Kruger, group CHRO at Tsebo Solutions said: “We have a new playing field and while our role has always been to have the interests of the organisation first and foremost, the last 18 months have introduced some new challenges. We must promote unity and a high-performance culture, but also drive a people-focused agenda. How do we keep people safe in terms of providing a safe working environment as well as protecting people from burnout, which is very real.”

Elanie said that more ‘courageous conversations’ need to take place between employees, employers, and HR.

No one-size-fits-all
“We were all in the same storm, but in different boats,” said Elanie. “We have 30,000 employees and only five percent could work from home. We had to look at solutions that worked for our business.”

Verna said events like the HR Indaba are important platforms for HR practitioners because this is where the exchange of information can take place and lessons can be learned from one another. “Organisations are creating great case studies of how to go forward. They are answering the question: ‘What does HR need to change?’”

Vicky says what also needs to be validated is that HR teams are tired and burnt out and they also need TLC and understanding. “We need to be able to take leave without explaining ourselves. We also need to take a break.”

Creating safe spaces
Later in the session, the panel discussion was broken up into smaller breakaway groups. The question posed in the breakaway group was: what courageous conversations should we be having to drive change?

Siemonne Terreblanche from Vopak SA, said: “We [HR] need to be real and create safe spaces for employees. Social and psychological safety is an important part of organisational culture, especially when addressing things like racism. As HR practitioners we need to ask, what are the safety levels in the organisation? Because that determines the level of conversations that we will have.”