CHROs Share Recent Lessons in Dealing with a Broader Set of Societal Challenges

By: Simon Callow and Teresa M. DiStefano
08.18.20

RHR has continued to connect with chief human resources officers in virtual roundtables as they navigate through the challenges of the pandemic and the resulting impact on organizations and the economy. CHROs from various industries including retail, food manufacturing, luxury consumer goods, technology, and energy have participated in these roundtables. This current round of discussions revealed that in addition to the practical issues of dealing with uncertainty and the way forward, CHROs are now facing a broader set of challenging societal questions. Here are some themes that have emerged:

THERE IS NO HURRY TO BRING PEOPLE BACK TO THE WORKPLACE

Generally, most organizations are taking a cautious approach to bringing people back to the workplace and are balancing the safety of employees and customers with the needs of managing the business.

  • Despite the easing of lockdowns across much of the world, there is a general sense that if you can work at home, stay at home. There is no perceived need to rush back; most organizations are looking at autumn as a potential time frame for return.

GETTING THE BEST OF BOTH: BALANCING HOME WORKING WITH OFFICE WORKING

As firms have become accustomed to working from home (WFH) and to the new virtual operating environment, the focus for CHROs is to try and get the best of both while also anticipating future challenges.

  • Many people have embraced WFH, but they are discovering that it is much harder to have complex and nuanced leadership discussions virtually.

SIGNIFICANT TRANSFORMATIONAL MOMENTS LIKE COVID AND THE BLACK LIVES MATTER (BLM) MOVEMENT ARE PUTTING CHROS IN THE VANGUARD OF CHANGE

There is a palpable belief that change needs to happen and that there is no going back. CHROs and chief executive officers are at the forefront of embracing a change agenda.

  • COVID and the BLM movement are dovetailing together and highlighting potential inequalities. They also provide opportunities for change, e.g., increasing diversity within hiring practices because a candidate’s geographical location may not matter with the ability to work from home.

A KEY PRIORITY FOR CHROS CONTINUES TO BE MAINTAINING ENGAGEMENT THROUGH TRANSPARENCY AND AUTHENTICITY

As leaders continue to inform, connect, unite, and guide, it is the companies that live their values and walk the talk that are driving the highest levels of engagement.

  • The CHROs we spoke with said that, despite the challenges, employee surveys have continued to be positive. Organizations continue to build trust and engagement and are seen as handling the crisis sensitively.

THE CHALLENGES OF LONG-TERM PLANNING AND REMUNERATION CONTINUE TO BE FRONT AND CENTER FOR CHROS

There seems to be no clear answers on the best way forward. Organizations are adopting different approaches.

  • A number of companies are holding off on compensation decisions until later in the year.

Simon Callow is a senior partner with RHR International and manages the firm’s international operations and RHR’s affiliates in Europe and Asia. He can be reached at scallow@rhrinternational.com

Teresa DiStefano is a senior partner who currently leads RHR International’s energy industry practice and has extensive experience in the automotive and pharmaceutical industries. She can be reached at tdistefano@rhrinternational.com

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RHR International

RHR International LLP is an independent global leadership consulting firm whose mission is to unlock potential in leaders.