A Unique Opportunity to Rethink HR ProcessesBy Alejandro Enríquez | Mon, 10/26/2020 - 06:00
Q: What is the role of HR within an organization in this new normal?
A: Today, more than ever, HR needs to be strengthened because we should be closer to our people. We need to listen to them and create real solutions for the needs that emerged due to the pandemic. It is true that we had to adapt quickly and it is likely that the current working conditions will continue.
One of the key elements that has helped us during this new normal is to provide certainty to our employees, demonstrating that we are interested in their well-being and in seeing them keep their jobs. One of Mitsubishi Motors’ recent successes was its quick response in setting up all our people with home office in mid-March. We call it Smart Office and the goal is to keep our teams safe at home while keeping the business running remotely.
We implemented surveys that helped us understand every employee’s situation during the pandemic. By understanding individual challenges, we designed a wellness program to address specific needs that range from how to set up your office at home to emotional support. This program started in April and it will last beyond the pandemic. Personal interaction was taken for granted before the pandemic. Being actively involved in employees’ lives is a new approach for corporations.
Q: How would you sum up the most important lessons learned from the pandemic?
A: The pandemic has helped us learn many things. It has been an opportunity to reinvent ourselves and the way we do some things. We hope COVID-19 pandemic ends soon but we can also be thankful for how it shook industries and forced them to do things differently without losing focus on what really matters: people. Employees are the bedrock of any company. We need to have clear objectives and strategies to reach them, bearing in mind that a healthy organizational structure is required.
Q: What are some strategies that can help keep people motivated?
A: When we say Mitsubishi Motors has been empathetic to its employees, we also acknowledge they have been really empathetic to Mitsubishi Motors. One of the factors that improves motivation is keeping all jobs. We did not layoff anyone, although that does not mean we did not implement savings strategies. We even provided financial support for all employees since we knew they were facing higher bills for services.
Another important element was our wellness program. Mitsubishi’s home office, nutrition and emotional well-being support for both employees and their families was really important. As for healthcare, our employee medical insurance covered COVID-19.
Taking care of the different aspects of a team-member’s life is important to keep motivation levels high. In the future, other elements will play an important role, such as flexible working schemes.
Q: What are some effective strategies for online training?
A: Before the pandemic, we had a Personal Development Dialogue program for each employee. This program is focused on the employee and their development within the company. The program was the basis for our 2020 training strategy through voluntary webinars.
From a professional standpoint, key abilities like sales were essential. We provided training on digital sales and related topics. Distance team management was another critical skill. Managing a team from a distance is different from in-person management. Following up on our employees’ work has also made us rethink how we approach evaluations. We can no longer measure work in hours.
We are developing a learning management system so we can provide follow-up through our distance training without losing sight of the skills employees need.
Q: How do you assess productivity and what best practices are here to stay?
A: Our teams have been equally or even more productive at home office. Many HR departments, ourselves included, had doubts about remote working schemes given the reduced personal contact. One of our greatest surprises was in employee productivity. Communication issues disappeared because effective communication was vital at a distance. Our employees’ commitment to deliverables was better than expected.
There is no turning back regarding home office. Paradigms have shifted and we are aware that when we go back to the office, we might not be there all week long. Companies will evolve to different and more flexible working schemes.
Q: What was the role of NOM-035 and mental health in coping with the challenges that organizations face?
A: NOM-035 is here to stay but it should also evolve as working conditions have during the pandemic. The Mexican labor law does not include a proper definition for home office. In addition, mental health at home is a matter that should be addressed given the circumstances we are living in. Organizations should take on best practices from other countries that have performed well in this regard to strengthen NOM-035. The norm does address psychological well-being and actual physical labor, which directly involves manufacturing plants.
Q: What skills are taking a more relevant role in organizations?
A: We need to reinvent ourselves as HR. It is necessary to assess which skills are still relevant today and what skills are emerging. Resilience is one of the most important elements for both individuals and organizations, not only to brave the difficult scenario we face but to make the most out of it. Adaptability to change is another relevant skill. Adapting to a new environment is difficult but it is harder for some than for others. Priority focus is essential as well to be clear about one’s priorities. Distance management also requires inspirational leadership. Leadership will be tested at a distance through results and team commitment. Finally, the ability to inspire is key. During the pandemic, inspiring people while being empathetic has been key to motivating different teams.
Q: What opportunities and challenges will the new generation bring to organizations?
A: In perspective, millennials were also challenging due to their circumstances and characteristics. Now, Gen Z has unique characteristics that bring huge opportunities. First, they handle technology like they were born with it. Second, it is a generation that is committed to making the world a better place. For the automotive industry, this means clean energy awareness and electric vehicles. There is a great deal to learn from young people and it is a matter of time before they enter our company. From our experience with millennials, I can say we are pleased by their inspirational element. Future generations will take on the post-pandemic world and will help us to make things in a different way.
Mitsubishi Motors de México is a subsidiary of Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors. The brand has a long history in the country with a 1.3 percent market share in 2020. It started operating independently in Mexico in 2019 and was ranked third on J.D. Power's 2020 Mexico Sales Satisfaction Index