Interview of the President of the Cyprus HR Management Association, Mrs Elena Stavrinou to GOLD Magazine

17 October 2021

Issue 127, October 17, 2021

From Turbulence to Transformation

As companies struggle to adapt to the post-COVID-19 working reality and keep up with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the need for HR expertise and leadership has never been greater. Although many people had viewed HR departments as being focused solely on administrative tasks, 2020 provided an excellent opportunity for the said department to redefine itself and become vital in ensuring employee responsiveness to change, boosting morale and enhancing company performance. Elena Stavrinou, President of the Cyprus Human Resources Management Association (CyHRMA) explains the impact of technology on the sector and highlights the need for transformation and meaningful communication.

As a business grows, its strategies, structure, and internal processes grow with it. Some employees have a hard time coping with these changes and companies experience decreased productivity and morale during periods of change. How can an HR department help employees in such situations?

Change can definitely be scary sometimes, as it removes us from our comfort zone. Organisations should ensure that their employees adapt to change and they can do that by:

› Preparing their employees for the change: communicating change, explaining the cause and final outcome of change, training and follow-up.

› Helping employees feel secure and safe. They need to know that their job and basic pay will be maintained after the change

takes place.

› Letting employees be part of the change by keeping them in the loop throughout the change process, keeping them involved and sharing the facts and figures.

› Keeping employees motivated by ensuring that they understand that this change is useful not only for the organisation but for their future. Preparing for this change will make them more competitive, better educated, and more skilled.

› Ensuring proper training is provided.

› Designating a responsible person to support employees throughout the change. This person should be knowledgeable enough so that employees will turn to him/ her for guidance and support.

› Rewarding acceptance of change and those who are trying to make the transition easier for everyone involved.

As we enter the uncharted territory of the post-pandemic world, HR managers are embracing the role of skilled consultants that they’ve increasingly been stepping into. What should they take into account when drafting the ‘new normal’ for employees?

What we have been through during the pandemic has taught us a lot and HR managers are now faced with the challenge of deciding what’s good to keep and what needs to be discarded. One of the biggest changes is the dramatic increase in remote working. This doesn’t mean, of course, that the numbers will remain as they are today but it seems that employees prefer a more hybrid work arrangement: a combination of working from home and at the office. HR should, therefore, find ways to keep supporting remote working, facilitate efficient and transparent communications, monitor remote employees’ work and, at the same time, ensure that the existing organisational culture is not threatened due to the inevitable change in social dynamics. Issues like digital recruiting, remote onboarding and digital HR document management will also become more and more important and HR should be adequately equipped to support these. So sound digital processes should be in place and HR should find new ways to engage with potential candidates (i.e. conduct video interviews, use of online pre-employment tests and reference checking) and new hires (i.e. through the development and implementation of virtual onboarding processes). Similarly, learning and development experts need to be more innovative in conceptualising and developing internal training programs that are more suited to online learning and cater to the different needs of a company’s workforce. Following new ways of work, similar capabilities should be expected, and developed by employees too. Organisations should therefore ensure that skills like flexibility, adaptability, digital knowledge, etc. are required and developed. The pandemic has also increased the trend of employers playing a vital role in their employees’ mental and physical health. Finally, HR should more than ever focus on diversity and inclusion strategies. The ability to work from anywhere will increasingly open up new job opportunities for culturally diverse employees all over the world. That’s why HR needs to think about how teams made up of very diverse employees can collaborate effectively and smoothly.

What is the role of technology in HR Management practices and in drafting practical and wise blueprints for remote working?

Technology has changed the way we all work and HR is no exception. Technological advancements and the move towards digital transformation have helped HR move away from administrative tasks to a focus on strategy and employee engagement. More specifically, when it comes to remote working; it cannot really happen without the aid of technology. Working remotely is possible thanks to digital technologies and it cannot be done efficiently and effectively otherwise. Remote working is about being able to do your work wherever you are as if you were at the office. It is therefore about collaborating with a number of people on online documents or through online meetings; it is about uploading and downloading files to an online platform or repository; it is about making calls using the internal company communication system; it is about working in real-time; and all these not necessarily from your physical office.

How do you expect HR Management practices to develop over the next decade and what will be the dominant trends in this area?

As we welcome another decade of innovation and new ideas, HR will have to be a strategic partner in business transformation. First of all, HR will need to adapt to the new diverse working practices due to the tremendous increase in remote working. As a result, HR will need to invest further in automation and technological advances and set out clear policies and processes for the new hybrid system of work. Digital transformation and investment in innovation and creativity will continue to be important pillars for HR in organisations. People analytics will be required to make more informed, evidence-based decisions that affect people at work. Due to the increase in data input and analysis, cybersecurity will be one of the major challenges for future HR in order to overcome issues such as data confidentiality and employee privacy. Online learning will be revisited with new innovative ways of delivering training and developmental activities, whilst the acquisition of digital skills will be imperative for all stakeholders. Upskilling or the development of new skills such as flexibility, adjustability, empathy, leading diverse teams, collaborating within cross-functional/cross-cultural teams will be mandatory. It comes as no surprise that the future of HR depends on the employee experience. The quest to enhance and/or reimage the employee experience (from recruitment through the career journey within the organisation) aims to increase employee satisfaction, to improve the organisation’s reputation and employer brand, create a competitive advantage and facilitate the transition towards a more dynamic, agile and flexible organisational format. These can be initiatives to improve employee wellbeing and related perks, online experiences from training initiatives to mindfulness sessions and social gatherings, non-company-related benefits, initiatives to promote mental health and safety, or just giving them a voice, etc. Last but not least, the future of HR requires more inclusive and diverse cultures. An organisation that is committed to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives will not only create and maintain a successful workplace and show commitment to protecting DEI through its policies and practices but will also give itself a competitive business advantage.