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3 ways HR tech can help us work during the pandemic

24 Feb 2021530 Views

The right HR tech can help you keep your staff well, engaged and productive during the pandemic, writes Hays’ Jacky Carter.

Companies have experienced a year unlike any other. The pandemic has massively accelerated digital adoption rates and the HR tech market has grown explosively as a result.

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As we move forward, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. HR professionals must continue to adapt and adopt the latest tools to further enable online learning and career development, hiring and onboarding, staff engagement and feedback, and many other key HR functions.

I can’t predict where we’ll be in another 12 months, but I guarantee HR tech will play a key role in maintaining the world of work now and in the years ahead. Here are three challenges that technology can help us overcome right now.

1. Thinking beyond video calls

Tech has risen to the challenge of enabling entire workforces to work from home pretty much overnight, thanks to tools such as Slack, Trello, Teams and Zoom. But screen-based meetings can be extremely hard on the brain, increasing fatigue and decreasing your productivity – a phenomenon many refer to as ‘Zoom fatigue’.

With remote and hybrid working here to stay, it’s important to ensure you keep your people engaged in the long term by exploring a broader range of communication tools. This means moving away from your reliance on video calls. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution here – different people work in different ways.

You may want to investigate tools like Facebook Workplace, Focusmate and PukkaTeam, for example, which are essentially virtual co-working spaces helping increase collaboration and enable brainstorming sessions.

VR conferencing is another possibility. It replaces video conferencing, helping to substitute in-person meetings and provide another online learning and development environment.

2. HR tech for staff wellbeing

Over the course of this pandemic, employee wellbeing has developed a whole new meaning. The health implications of the virus on workforces are multifaceted.

Employees are experiencing unprecedented levels of sustained stress, with three-quarters of the workforce experiencing burnout and 40pc claiming this was a direct result of Covid-19.

HR tech can help reduce the strain. With 83pc of employees wanting employers to provide mental health supporting tech, there are plenty of options available.

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AI therapists are one possibility. According to research by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence, 34pc of employees believe access to an AI therapist provides a judgement-free zone, 30pc believe this would provide an unbiased outlet to share problems and 29pc think it would provide quick answers to health-related problems. Chatbots are another option, which can help guide employees to mental health resources and advice.

When it comes to physical health, there are also plenty of HR tech options out there. Virtual GPs are a growing trend and such tools provide staff with access to medical advice and clinics to not just monitor, but also to proactively manage their health.

In addition to implementing physical distancing measures, installing sensor-based technologies throughout the workplace can help minimise physical contact and reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Fitness trackers are another option to boost wellness and staff engagement. Construction firm Fluor Canada, for example, recently provided staff with trackers, which allow them to take part in fitness challenges and monitor their health during the pandemic.

However, these programmes and devices can raise privacy concerns, which HR professionals must address.

3. Giving remote learning a social element

The 70-20-10 model of learning at work is widely recognised, whereby 70pc of learning is from experience gained on the job, 20pc from work relationships (such as coaching and mentoring) and 10pc from formal courses and learning interventions.

The Future of Jobs 2020 report from the World Economic Forum also states that 94pc of business leaders now expect employees to learn on the job, as opposed to formal training. In other words, it’s not enough to provide a few online courses – you must encourage social learning, which encompasses the first two points above.

However, physical distancing and remote working have effectively cut out a major chunk of social learning, where staff may struggle to learn by osmosis – represented by the informal, social learning covered in the first two areas.

To address this challenge, there are plenty of quick-win HR tech options. You could set up online discussion boards, team areas, wikis, image-sharing systems and other collaboration tools on your intranet, for example. Tools like Google Classroom, Facebook Workplace, Focusmate and PukkaTeam are also providing virtual co-working spaces to facilitate effective collaboration and brainstorming sessions.

VR is another growing tool to deliver corporate training and development programmes, helping people feel like they are in a classroom environment and, therefore, can learn from their interactions with their classmates.

By Jacky Carter

Jacky Carter is director of customer experience at Hays. A version of this article previously appeared on the Hays Viewpoint blog.

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