By Mridula Kashyap
On day 1 of the COVID-19 Collaborative Conference on Crisis Management (a collaborative of Atma, ATE Chandra Foundation, The Bridgespan Group, Sahayog Foundation, Dasra), Rahul Balakrishnan, VP at Arthan conducted a session ‘Managing People’ aimed at supporting organisations in the social impact sector with reassessing talent management strategies and suggesting agile processes in light of the impact of COVID-19.
The session highlighted key findings from a survey with 100+ social impact organisations on the impact of COVID-19 on their hiring and talent practises. The survey was designed and conducted by Arthan while Atma was instrumental in the survey outreach. This was coupled with insights on managing teams – with respect to their productivity and morale drawn from Arthan’s experience and expertise in managing talent in the impact sector. Over the past 3 years, Arthan has supported 600+ social organisations with HR advisory and organisational development and has conducted multiple offline and online knowledge sessions on talent management and impact.
CURRENT TRENDS AND FINDINGS FROM THE SURVEY
The survey focused on understanding the impact of the COVID-19 situation on recruitment, increments, appraisals, and salaries and ascertaining the challenges that social organisations are facing in this situation, as well as identifying areas where organisations needed support.
It was found that while new recruits are being onboarded using tools online, more than half of the participating organisations are delaying joining dates. There also is a favourable shift towards working with independent consultants. For existing employees, work plans are being changed wherever necessary (especially for field staff) and greater connection between employees, managers and HR teams is being established to help them manage work and understand motivations and anxieties. Focus is also being laid on preparatory work for projects along with learning and development opportunities through online courses.
In terms of support required, organisations mentioned the need for support in recruiting full-time employees vs independent consultants; team management requirements such as onboarding new hires, employee engagement, work plans, training, performance management, salaries & appraisals and managing donors, funders and organisation’s finances.
PEOPLE MANAGEMENT AND MAINTAINING MORALE DURING CRISIS
“People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.”—Zig Ziglar
We’re all going through a critical time – and how well we manage our teams will define how well we will come out of this situation and remain relevant. The social sector works closely with people; it is one of the most people-centric sectors, working to solve some of the most complex challenges in the world. Therefore, we must look at ways of strengthening our teams and maintaining their morale, thereby ensuring that we continue to create an impact in the times to come.
Manage Yourself: Working from home has added a lot more roles and responsibilities to all our plates, over and above the pressures of work. Therefore, it becomes important to check-in with ourselves, our plans and projects, before we can help others.
Manage Capabilities and not Headcount: To adapt well, we must manage our people well, otherwise, a crisis like this can hold us back. We must look beyond numbers and identify skills sets within our teams – skill sets that could be transferable. We may find that we have new potential and possibilities of growth that can help us ride out this situation.
Be Open & Honest: While we’re all working from home, these are not typical WFH times – there is increased anxiety coupled with the pressure of ensuring effectiveness and productivity. At such times, maintaining increased connectivity between teams becomes important. Share information in an open and transparent way, and ensure it is translated at every level within the organisation. It is okay to not know all answers right away, but showing the willingness to share our understanding of the situation will be appreciated and go a long way in making teams work together to solve all challenges.
Be Compassionate: The ability to show compassion and acknowledging the efforts of those working to address challenges can have a huge impact on our success. Check-in with your teams on a regular and consistent basis, share updates and listen to concerns. Make sure you spend time understanding challenges and concerns your teams are facing. We have seen more than once that teams that feel appreciated and understood perform much better.
Cut out the Symbolism: Every single communication that goes to all our stakeholders – employees, funders, or the people at large – should be clear. But not just that, we must be willing to walk the talk. Consistent and empathetic communication that is followed through with actions is reassuring and helps effectively lead organisations through times of crisis.
Stay as a team: As we work individually, in silos, it is important, now more than ever, to stay connected as a team. Communication is key, and there should be opportunities created for coming together and connecting even beyond work. In this time of virtual, remote working, find ways to mitigate feelings of isolation. Ask team members for suggestions and see how creative communicating and working together can get.
Try: Virtual lunches/coffee sessions, attending online workshops and webinars, creating book clubs, sharing recipes and more!
Set the culture: A culture of communication that is clear, consistent and regular should be established. Determine a mode that works best and then communicate the same to all. Create schedules for communication – both internal and with external stakeholders, determine POCs for every project and set non-negotiable areas of communication.
In the end, it is important to remember that it is only by managing our teams and talent effectively, that we will be able to manage any challenge that comes our way. And at times such as these, this becomes more important than ever.
Arthan works with organisations in the social impact sector to help them with hiring, building HR policies & processes, organizational development and building their capacity in the human capital domain. If you need any support during these uncertain times, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
For a guide on financial planning, especially for NGOs, from a best to worst-case scenario, read: Nonprofit financial planning for COVID-19 by Arthan.