Report Title: Five Ways to Lead: Workforce Principles for the COVID-19 Pandemic
Link to the Report: https://www.weforum.org/press/2020/04/five-ways-to-lead-workforce-principles-for-the-covid-19-pandemic
Concepts and Issued Discussed in the Article
Zopf (2020) discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic has presented an unexpected turn of events to organizations globally, forcing business leaders and human resource managers to implement new strategies for dealing with the crisis. According to this article, businesses have to adopt new measures to address the crisis’s long-term implications. Focusing on all stakeholders’ interests is imperative to survival through these trying times (Zopf, 2020). The author discusses some guidelines developed by the World Economic Forum to help human resource managers and business leaders on key principles and management imperatives that can be implemented to deal with the crisis. Five guiding principles and four management imperatives critical in aiding businesses to navigate this pandemic are discussed in this article.
As Zopf (2020) puts it, a company’s commitment to its core principles is often tested when it comes to making decisions that concern labor cost and management of risks. Sustainable companies should recognize the competing demands in their organizations and find out innovative ways of solving problems in times of crisis. A company that balances the needs of the company and that of other stakeholders is able to prevail through, even the worst of circumstances that the world can present (Aust, Matthews, & Muller-Camen, 2020). However, taking unsustainable and short-termed decisions such as retrenching employees during times of crisis such as COVID-19 may create distrust and demotivate the remaining employees. This article, therefore, encourages organizations to implement a responsible course of action at this defining moment.
The focus of the Issues and Why This Issue Is Important to Be Addressed
Sustainable human resource management (SHRM) practices have been proven to positively impact corporate performance. According to this report, SHRM demands that organizations create a working environment where today’s actions lead to positive impacts tomorrow (Zopf, 2020). In other words, businesses ought to create competitive advantage, shareholder value, and sustainable employability to help organizations achieve their long-term objectives. The report further opines that the COVID-19 pandemic largely demands that businesses adopt HR strategies that not only focus on the short-term but also make decisions that favor a company’s middle and long-term strategic objectives.
This article encourages human resource managers to adopt an agile and continuous learning mindset that ensures that all HR decisions are re-aligned to address the current circumstances (Zopf, 2020). Agile human resource management entails organizing the HR function in a way that facilitates adaptiveness and responsiveness of activities, structures, fluctuations in demands, and changing world needs. While the traditional HR functions focused more on alignment and control, agile HR managers are able to turn around the status quo to adapt to the current needs of employees and the organization. For instance, just as this article argues, the COVID-19 pandemic is a new challenge that all organizations must step in to deal with. Adopting an agile HR function ensures that businesses are able to turn around activities to best adapt to the new norms. For example, allowing employees to work remotely, encouraging and managing shifts, and encouraging employees to meet via the internet are some of the ways through which an organization can prove to be agile.
As this report further notes, it is critical that businesses align their objectives to serve, equally and in the most optimal way possible, to those of employees. As such, employers will not only think about profits but also consider the welfare of their employees. In times of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, it is common to find companies making decisions on ways of cutting costs through non-payment to suppliers, reducing employees’ pay, or retrenching workers. Such decisions are majorly necessitated by reduced revenues and declining economies. As sustainable organizations, however, it is worthwhile to consider the welfare of employees even when revenues are falling. While profits and lost revenues can be recovered in the later period, lost morale and skill may be hard to replace (Haak-saheem & Festing, 2018). As employees are critical drivers of the company’s objectives, making decisions that hurt employee trust in the company and morale may mean that a company may never meet its objectives even when the crisis ends.
The management imperatives outlined in the article largely promote the principles of sustainable human resource management practices globally and more so in the UAE. For instance, prioritizing planning, communication, and overall well-being ensures that policies and procedures are well articulated and that local leaders and managers are empowered (Qureshi, Pillai, & Singh, 2018). Additionally, redesigning work processes ensures that organizations create platforms where employees can work remotely, adopt talent exchange programs, and focus on employee experience and motivation. The report also encourages managers to focus on employee motivation, engagement, and experience. In order to do this, HR managers and business leaders must lead with integrity, be purposeful, engage employees and listen to their grievances, and connect employees using available technologies (Waxin & Bateman, 2016). Sustainable HR management systems understand that employees drive company performance. Focusing on worker motivation and welfare will, therefore, translate to better company performance through increased productivity.
Recommendations and Implications from Your Critical Perspectives
Organizations in the UAE must recognize that human resource management is both a means and an end to the realization of organizational strategic objectives. Sustainability in HRM is particularly important as it directs employees’ actions and mindset towards achieving strategic goals (Waxin & Bateman, 2016). In this perspective, HRM can be viewed as a means of achieving sustainability goals. Embodying sustainability principles in human management systems can result in the long-term physical, economic, and social well-being of employees. At the same time, HRM practices can be seen as an end to sustainability goals (Zopf, 2020). The relationship between an organization’s social and economic environments and SHRM potential cannot be over-emphasized. One way of ensuring that organizations in the UAE become resilient and sustainable as a way of achieving the vision 2030 is by promoting the adoption of strategies that help organizations in coping with crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
As organizations try to remain strong during the crisis, it is paramount to engage all stakeholders in the decision-making process. One way of achieving sound and sustainable HRM practices is by engaging employees in decisions that concern their welfare, performance, and overall company objectives (Stankeviciute & Savaneviciene, 2013). Engaging these stakeholders will ensure that employees do not consider themselves as ‘just employees’ but as crucial business objective drivers. Additionally, business leaders must see the crisis as a defining moment in their leadership and a learning opportunity to better their practices. As a result, corporate leaders should not rush to implement short-sighted strategies such as firing employees to reduce cost but innovate new ways, such as reducing budgets on avoidable operating expenses. It is also imperative to balance short-term financial concerns with long-term business objectives to ensure that organizations protect jobs and address a vulnerable workforce’s well-being.
Globally, organizations are facing the challenge of scarce skilled human resources, the negative effect of HRM, and the aging population. How the firms cope with these challenges is purely dependent on the adoption of sound sustainable HRM policies. Recently, global and societal changes have prompted organizations to find new ways to manage human resources (Haak-saheem & Festing, 2018). Attracting and retaining a skilled workforce has become a key focal point in HRM policies as organizations now understand the need to build a pool for the future. Traditionally, the connection between employers and employees was viewed as a relationship where people sought to sell their skills for economic gains. As a result, employees would be exploited as much as possible as organizations sought to achieve the maximum financial gains from their workforce. However, SHRM policies dictate that organizations view employees as partners in driving business objectives. Clearly, HRM plays a huge role in the achievement of the social and economic goals of the UAE and the wider Middle East region.
Companies must start to implement and manage the ‘triple bottom line concept of sustainability. As a result, organizations are able to simultaneously create social, ecological, and economical value as a way of ensuring sustainability in organizations. Managing components, activities and processes in such a way that the economy, people, and environmental benefit should be the goal of any organization seeking to operate in the UAE (Haak-saheem & Festing, 2018). During the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations that have implemented the ‘triple bottom line’ would understand that, although profits are good and pleasing in the eyes of shareholders, the economic component is just a part of the whole spectrum. The social aspect, where employees and the community at large fall in, is equally important. As such, companies cannot implement decisions that prove detrimental to the well-being of employees while claiming to strive for an inclusive sustainable future for both their businesses and the country at large.
How These Recommendations and Implications are Relevant to UAE Policy, Strategic Plans, Culture, and Environment
UAE is one of the most developed economies in the Middle East, and its government aims to create a skillful and knowledge-based economy that can drive the country’s goal of becoming a global icon. Re-aligning HR decisions to address the current circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic is relevant in the UAE as it would promote the realization of the country’s UAE Constitution provisions that commit the government to strive to ensure availability of employment opportunities to citizens and ensure that relevant training is provided to them (Waxin & Bateman, 2016). In its vision 2030, skilled human capital is listed as one of the strategic enablers of achieving strategic goals. Seeing the crisis as a defining and learning moment and consequently innovating new resilient HR strategies would solidify UAE’s position as a distinguished icon of innovation. Cities such as Dubai have gained international recognition due to their ability to innovate tirelessly. Such innovation cannot be achieved without a skilled workforce. In line with policies, such as Emiratization, the UAE’s government has outlined some strategies that focus on building a strong workforce to drive the economy.
UAE’s economy is pretty diversified, encompassing logistics, manufacturing, banking, finance, and tourism. Similarly, the country’s workforce is heavily diversified with over 180 nationalities with differing ethnicity, religion, and culture. As such, the management of human resources in this part of the world is a challenge (Stankeviciute & Savaneviciene, 2013). However, the ability to manage this diversified workforce is viewed as an important enabler to the country’s goal in the achievement of its strategic objectives. Establishing and sustaining a skilled and effective pool of human capital, managed by a state-of-the-art system is a necessity in the UAE as it strives towards the realization of its vision 2030. The development of a strong economic system, as UAE seeks to do, heavily depends on the effective development of fundamental building blocks of different essential sectors in the country (Waxin & Bateman, 2016). Setting any organizational vision and strategy should always be pillared on human resource as the backbone to drive growth, with more effort being invested in enhancing effectiveness and competency in human capital. Attaining a sustainable HR in UAE is, therefore, a paramount component in helping the country realize its strategic objectives of becoming a global icon in the Middle East.
Focusing on striking a balance between all relevant stakeholders in the economy is particularly pertinent to propelling the UAE towards achieving its strategic objectives and meeting the goals of vision 2030. Among all these stakeholders, employees play a central role in spearheading the realization of the economic objectives of the country. Regardless of the huge investments that the country can make, nothing can be achieved without a skilled, motivated, and empowered workforce (Aust et al., 2020). HRM resilience, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, will guarantee the country a future in the global economy. Additionally, incorporating the concepts of SHRM in policies will guide the UAE in the creation of a focused and motivated workforce. Organizations are must, therefore, strive to adopt a continuous and agile mindset, see the pandemic as a defining leadership moment, understand and engage all stakeholders, focus on attaining optimality between company and employee well-being, and make decisions that address medium to learn term business objectives.
Creating sustainable HRM systems entails combining value-added human resource practices in order to attain a perfect fit with both individual and organizational needs. However, it is worth noting that there is no ‘best practice’ that has been proven to work for all kinds of businesses and organizations (Waxin & Bateman, 2016). As a result, maintaining an agile HR is key to tailoring different industries and organizations to achieving the best optimal results that serve all stakeholders. The size of organizations, the industry one serves in, the educational and cultural background of employees, and overall organizational strategy are some of the key factors that dictate the kind of HR strategies that firms seek to meet (Haak-saheem & Festing, 2018). An important path that can help companies in the UAE in establishing a perfect fit and mix between organizational and individual needs is through maintaining a consultative and engaging system of human resources. In this type of HR management, employees, as important stakeholders, must be engaged continuously in all matters affecting their welfare and well-being.
Zopf (2020) discusses five guiding principles and four management imperatives that human resource managers and organizational leaders can implement to create sustainable human resource systems especially during this period of COVID-19 pandemic. Creating sustainable HRM is particularly important in the UAE as it directly impacts corporate performance. As a country driven by the desire to achieve its vision 2030, UAE faces an enormous challenge of building a skilled and motivated workforce able to spearhead its goals. The recommendations presented in this report are, therefore, very relevant to UAE’s policy strategic, cultural, and environmental plans.
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