How HR Leaders Must Deal With Business Disruption

Reacting after a crisis is no longer an effective strategy for business and HR leaders. Responding to business disruptions is taking on a proactive form, with HR leaders adopting a strategy that seeks to understand potential challenges before they happen through comprehensive data analytics and continuous employee feedback.

At the heart of this approach lies an emphasis on employee well-being as an integral aspect of strategic planning and modelling. Read on to find out how organizations can make the most of adaptive HR leadership to deliver a human-centred approach to disruption.

Bernard Marr’s article in Forbes, The 10 Biggest Business Trends For 2021 Everyone Must Be Ready For, highlights some of the key potential future disruptions likely to impact businesses moving forward into the new year. The abandonment of the workplace in favour of increased remote working, the increase in automation and importance of data-driven decision making, and a refocusing on local as opposed to global considerations in light of travel restrictions are all factors likely to continue to play an important role in how business and HR leaders plan for the future.

By the same token, the events of 2020 have created a seismic shift in how leaders prepare for potential new challenges so that they are not just in a position to survive any future “black swan” events that create intense disruptions but are well-positioned to thrive in the face of adversity. The trends outlined by Marr in his Forbes article could be subject to great changes, and organizations may well have to once again to respond to an unforeseen crisis.

Let’s examine the qualities of adaptive HR leadership, and how these can be integrated into a human-centric approach to offer organizations the resilience to deal with potential future business disruptions.

Let’s examine how business leaders can best overcome these challenges to build an organisation capable of responding and adapting to a crisis, using strategic HR management to bolster resilient leadership, and pairing a strategic long-term vision with an ability to act quickly and make tough decisions in a crisis.

Qualities of adaptive HR leadership

HR leaders can play a vital role in how businesses enterprises adapt to disruptions, nurturing talent and driving innovation to ensure the company thrives in the face of emerging challenges. The principle qualities of adaptive HR leadership are:

  • Mind-set. Adaptive HR leadership requires a fluid and dynamic approach to skills. Agile and iterative focus on continuous innovation means leaders need to work to break down silos across the workforce, enabling a spirit of collaboration in which individuals and teams fail fast and learn faster, continuously innovating new solutions during this process.
  • Focus. A healthy employee experience and strong sense of engagement are essential for empowering teams and individuals, with HR delivering a culture and brand which drives those values which foster the ability to recognize and focus on potential disruptions, providing solutions which offer both qualitative and quantitative value.
  • Agility and Flexibility. Adaptive HR leadership empowers managers and leaders to switch tracks on the fly via a business ecosystem of networked teams. By creating and nurturing networks of agile teams, HR leaders can drive collaboration, encourage continuous engagement, and develop those skills necessary to anticipate future demands.
  • Transparency. Real-time data and analytics allows HR leaders and managers to deliver real-time responses to any emerging crisis. This proactive – or even preemptive – response mechanism boosts the intrinsic resilience of an organization, with dashboard analytics able to afford leaders a transparent birds’ eye view of the company so that problems are understood at both the macro and micro level.

Human-centred approach to dealing with business disruption

The practical glue which binds the qualities of adaptive leadership together is the adoption of a human-centred approach, one which places individual and team well-being at the forefront. The study from Deloitte, The social enterprise in a world disrupted: Leading the shift from survive to thrive, explains how this mindset should be embraced:

“It’s our view that the shift from surviving to thriving depends on an organization becoming — and remaining —distinctly human at its core. This is not just a different way of thinking and acting. It’s a different way of being, one that approaches every question, every issue, and every decision from a human angle first. And it’s not just a good idea, but a mandate for growth.”

On a practical level, this means adopting processes that allow HR leaders and managers to understand the work environment from a human perspective while shaping new realities according to potential or actual disruptions.

Gaining insight through data

HR leaders should use data and communications platforms to gain insight and understanding into what makes individuals and teams excel and thrive. By using performance management tools, HR leaders and managers can draw upon a wide range of data that can help align behaviours with the broader objectives of the organization, developing the desired capabilities.

HR leaders, managers and team leaders can track development towards goals in real-time through Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), while at the same time HR administrators can create detailed employee analytics and reports to give a better understanding of the human circumstances which might be contributing towards poor performance.

By using automated HR reports, HR leaders can take a proactive approach to addressing issues in the workforce, reducing mistakes and improving efficiency.

Using data and feedback to develop workforce strategies

Developing effective and resilient workforce strategies requires a combination of data and feedback. Feedback from teams and individuals allows HR leaders to collaborate with executives and managers and act on insights gained, combining this information with data to develop strategies that maximize the potential of the workforce.

With the vast majority of employees working remotely, gathering and analysing this information requires a multi-channel digital communications approach with real-time performance feedback. Such feedback allows HR leaders and managers to take a proactive approach, giving employees a sense that their best interests are a high priority while demonstrating empathy and an understanding of their needs.

From there, workforce strategies can be developed with a clear understanding of the data which is driving the decisions, aligning what needs to be done with how the workforce is best suited to achieve results.


Making well-being an integral aspect of work

Making work processes and well-being integrally linked to one another helps to build resilient individuals and teams. As the Deloitte study discovered, 80% of nearly 9,000 survey respondents identified well-being as important or very important to their organization’s success.

HR leaders can establish programs of digital wellness and productivity, marshalling the resources of a multi-channel communications platform to connect individuals and teams. Job crafting initiatives can be developed which help give individuals more autonomy and a sense of agency so that employees are able to make meaningful decisions regarding their role within the organization.

HR leaders can draw upon a wide range of processes to help foster and strengthen well-being, from working with employees on personal development plans and expanding their skill sets, to culture promotion and feedback mechanisms that emphasize well-being as a core component of the company’s values.

Supercharging teamwork with collaboration and communication tools

Establishing collaboration tools supercharges teams to create better outcomes. HR leaders can play a pivotal role in creating and tapping into talent ecosystems, understanding where the talent exists, encouraging communication that breaks down the traditional silos found between teams and departments, and facilitating conversations that help to spread innovative thinking throughout the company.

As the Deloitte study explains, “The next frontier in teaming is superteams: combinations of people and technology leveraging their complementary capabilities to pursue outcomes at a speed and scale not otherwise possible.”

A database of employee skills can allow HR leaders and managers to identify individuals best positioned to contribute the most to potential superteams, establishing lines of communication (for instance through channels in Microsoft Teams) which cut through the digital divide to create a network of coaches and mentors.

Embracing disruption with innovation strategies

Turning disruption from a negative into a positive force can take HR strategy in bold new directions and unleash innovative new strategies which put an organization well ahead of the competition. Industry shakers such as Netflix and Uber understood that meeting the customer’s current needs wasn’t enough; only through anticipating their future (and unstated) needs and targeting previously overlooked areas for growth and expansion.

Insights gained internally through data analytics and employee feedback can be combined with observations outside the business for additional inspiration and understanding of external trends. Through this understanding of new trends and business models, HR leaders can develop a strategy that enables businesses to embrace disruptive innovation.