From Adversity Comes Opportunity For HR

Mark Fogel Audacious Ideas, Change Management, Employee Development, HR Technology, Learning and Development, Mark Fogel, Paul Hebert, Telecommuting

“Every adversity contains, at the same time, a seed of equivalent opportunity”.

One of many quotes from the controversial Napoleon Hill, an American Self-help author from the early 20th century.

I know your probably saying – Mark where did that come from? No, I did not go to my “go to guy” at Fistful of Talent, Paul Herbert, for the interesting quote. Instead, I Googled my favorite quote “from adversity comes opportunity”, and it seems this fellow (Napoleon) had a lot of interesting quotes during the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s. I leave it to you if you want to explore his works further.

For today, I want to stick to adversity as the topic of discussion with all of you. The past few weeks are uncharted territory. Adversity may even be an understatement. But rather than lament the misfortunes of the pandemic, let’s focus for just a few minutes on the opportunity it presents to pivot, add value, and change for the future.

First, we have gone virtual in every aspect of our life, literally overnight. For some, this has not been overly difficult but for others, this is like a stroke victim learning to walk and talk all over again. Many of us in the HR and Talent community have been working, at least in part, virtually for years. Recruiters are used to doing video interviewing, and for many of us the hundreds of meetings with portions of staff streamed in from far off locations make this familiar territory. We are adept at using ZOOM, GOTO Meeting, Skype, Google Hangouts and Facebook Live, along with the hundreds of other platforms available to communicate virtually.

Many of us use shared document tools such as MS Teams and Google Docs as well. I have been training online with SHRM prep class facilitation and two of my graduate school classes for three years, as well as participating in a myriad of webinars and podcasts for the better part of a decade. So, I am far from an expert, but I have gone through a major portion of the proverbial curve. Not the Corona virus curve, but the working remotely curve.

With transparency, let us call out the elephant in the room. This is unfamiliar territory for many of your employees and family members. Many of you are living through the shock of discovering your employees do not know how to navigate life online beyond Facebook and Instagram, or shopping on Amazon. So this is where the opportunity comes in. As HR and Talent pros, you can put your hard-earned skills to work by facilitating and teaching others to adapt to this new world. It’s ironic how training comes full circle in a crisis. For years it (training) was the first thing cut from an operating budget, but this go-around it is more than likely the most important thing that all organizations need to provide. At least until everyone gets up to speed.

Second, it is important to layout ground rules and systems of how and when to use the myriad of technology options. Again, HR can step in to guide leaders to create guidelines and guard rails for everyday communication and use of systems. Unlike the virtual worker of the past, the new workplace has kids going to school at home, spouses and significant others jockeying for quiet space, and other household distractions that must be accounted for. This is not the traditional work-from-home (WFH) office environment.

 This adversity also comes with the expansion of the workday and work week. Believe it or not, folks in some cases are working expanded hours. I have had several conversations with senior leaders in different businesses the past few weeks, all who have shared they need to be available 24×7 as to not loose whatever business they can hold on to until this crisis ends. This issue (availability and total work hours) needs to be thought out and discussed with leadership. The guard rails may need to be expanded for a short time on both – work hours and availability.

You may be thinking all your employees know how to use this stuff. The reality is they don’t. I have watched local neighborhood chat groups lament the inability of teachers to teach online and the same for many of my colleagues who are college professors. Telemedicine is now going front and center in the current environment as well. It’s surprising how many in the medical profession don’t know how to use technology either..

It’s time to pay it forward with your knowledge and expertise to get your fellow workers, family and friends up to speed. HR has an opportunity to play a major role during this adversity…Now go help!