COVID-19 will transform the role of HR, PwC Thailand says

Dr Pirata Phakdeesattayaphong, Consulting Partner for PwC Thailand
Dr Pirata Phakdeesattayaphong, Consulting Partner for PwC Thailand

Human Resources (HR) must embrace a new role to support their management as the COVID-19 crisis forces businesses to quickly develop and adapt remote-work policies, PwC Thailand says.

 

HR professionals must become a strategic business partner that helps leadership manage workforce planning, design work-from-home (WFH) practices and deploy new HR tools and technologies.

 

Dr Pirata Phakdeesattayaphong, a Consulting Partner for PwC Thailand, said that the COVID-19 has shaken the role of HR to its core.

 

“Before the pandemic, HR used to be about recruiting, hiring, payroll and benefits, as well as retaining and developing talent to increase business competitiveness. Now all that is changing.

 

“The role of HR today has increasingly shifted to focusing on employee safety, health and well-being, solving issues associated with remote work and keeping people engaged and productive on top of moving recruitment and onboarding online,” she said.

 

While HR departments in many countries across the globe are more adept at embracing changes brought by the new normal, the pace of HR functions at Thai companies has been slow because they have just grown accustomed to the concept of remote working and a contingent workforce, Pirata said.

 

With organisations now on the cusp of recovery, Pirata said the role of HR will still face the challenges of performance management in a predominantly remote environment and helping the employer serve as a social safety net, among others.

 

According to PwC’s “How the new normal is shaping the future of HR”, HR will take centre stage in the midst of a pandemic by:

1.  Redefining organisational culture by shifting towards a people-centric and hybrid workplace. There will likely be a major shift towards hybrid working models that capitalise on the benefits of both remote and office working, which makes it more flexible on working arrangements. This includes emphasising on creating participatory decision-making values and maximising occupational health and safety by focusing on physical and mental well-being.

2. Driving people transformation by personalised rewards schemes. Realigning rewards to market realities through adaptive and personalised compensation structures. HR may consider transitioning to an outcome-based performance management system where employees’ performance is measured solely on their outputs rather than the time spent working. This means rethinking and realigning KPIs to match new realities and accommodate the transition towards the new normal as employees gradually upskill and reskill themselves and reinforcing the learning and development agenda through digital upskilling. 

3. Enabling change by leveraging workforce analytics to promote data-driven decision making. Over the last decade, we have witnessed a rise in data-driven decision making across all industries, business sectors and organisations, and HR is no different. Workforce analytics enables HR to gauge employee experience, engagement, and satisfaction. Rethinking talent sourcing and recruitment by embracing emerging technologies and diverse skill sets and accelerating the digital transformation agenda through the integration of disruptive technologies. Digital now, not tomorrow.

 

“Without urgently putting in place a remote-working policy and making appropriate adjustments to performance-based compensation programmes that reflect the impact of COVID-19, HR departments will be at risk of not properly incentivising employees in line with their contributions,” Pirata said.

 

The future of HR after COVID-19

 

Dr Pirata said that several leading companies both inside and outside Thailand have downsized their HR teams and adopted solutions such as Human Resource Information System (HRIS) or hiring HR outsourcing. This trend underlines the need for organisations to restructure their HR departments to be more flexible and agile. 

 

Other technologies – Robotic Process Automation (RPA) for managing routine work, Virtual Reality (VR) for training or onboarding, and Data Analytics for identifying talent and recruiting risks – are also being deployed to help HR optimise costs and improve efficiency.

 

HR must be able to identify the types of work that will be replaced by technology, or specific jobs that will require an employee with certain skill sets to perform, Dr Pirata said. This will help them to attract, retain and develop the right talent, as well as upskill and reskill the workforce – both of which are time consuming and will take longer term efforts.

 

“For the people in the HR industry, start by developing skills focused on strategy setting, workforce planning and data analytics. This is equally important to improving the skills to attract and retain talent.

 

“Today, HR needs to be a business partner that can support the organisation toward digital transformation. They also need to act as a change agent in building a people-centric corporate culture. Aside from this, they must be in the driver’s seat promoting and communicating core values to employees in order to create a new DNA for the organisation,” Dr Pirata concluded.