Jaime Zapata
Corporate Director of Training and Talent
Expert Contributor

Managing Human Talent in Times of Crisis

By Jaime Zapata | Wed, 09/02/2020 - 14:00

Crises of all kinds have always existed throughout history. Regardless of the nature of the crisis, the best way to deal with it is to make the most of the resources available at hand and plan carefully for the next steps.

Within the spectrum of resources available, the most important in times of uncertainty is, without doubt, human talent. At the end of the day, the tactical and operational execution of the business strategy relies on the hands of the talent identified within the organization, which will ultimately move the company forward.
Starting from that point, it is difficult to decide how the areas responsible for managing human talent in organizations can continue to perform their functions without affecting the working climate when uncertainty appears in the equation.

The workplace’s environmental conditions measure the employees' thermometer of happiness and sense of stability, two elements that have to be kept stable so as not to affect the processes of the organization. If we add employee satisfaction, the prevailing cost reduction and the reduction of operating costs to keep the organization afloat to the equation, the matter becomes more complicated.

In the face of so many variables that come into play, it is necessary to carry out a series of actions to control, as much as possible, such variables from overflowing and end up affecting the employee's stability and therefore, the company's survival in the face of crisis:

  1. Employer's commitment, business priority: Strengthening the commitment of the employee through direct communication will reduce the doubt that leads to uncertainty regarding job stability. Such communication must focus on the message and the way the message reaches collaborators. The message must be clear and optimistic in a cascade from top management so that the communication strengthens the bonds between work teams.
  2. Informing opportunely: Providing the collaborator with first-hand information at the right time.
  3. Honoring the commitments the organization made to its collaborators: If drastic measures must be taken due to the crisis in connection with delays in paying salaries, reducing these, paying vouchers, etc, the organization has to comply fully with the dates it commits to, otherwise, the loss of credibility for the company can become a dangerous rescue issue.
  4. Design/improve/redesign HR policies to adjust to current business, country and world reality: Policy changes must be adopted and adapted to what is happening in the industry and the market. In addition to the above, they must be efficient and optimized to favor the collaborator, the company and the organizational climate. The HR and human talent areas need to be able to detect the needs of both the business and the collaborator at the same time in order to provide effective tools and policies capable of responding to the priorities, which will invariably generate value for the business.
  5. Anticipate the possible risks of decisions taken that impact the intangible value of the company: A company's intangibles (mission, vision, values, culture, trust, commitment, employer brand) have a high estimated value not only for their intrinsic value but also for the time and effort invested in building them. The creation of intangible value is not only an element of competitiveness but represents the difference between surviving and not surviving in times of crisis.

Furthermore, intangible resources generate long-term competitive advantages that eventually materialize into productivity gains that will bring economic benefits.
While these actions do not represent a formula that magically solves the dilemma, they may well serve as a small guide for dealing with the crisis regardless of the degree of maturity of an organization to manage its own talent. 

In my professional life, I have had to face several social , financial and political crises, but never a health crisis with such an impact as that which we are experiencing. Beyond the trite phrase that "the crisis is an opportunity to improve," the truth is that when the basic aspects are neglected (the work environment, commitment, the conservation of the intangible value of the company), the famous and expected improvement often remains in the inkwell.

To survive a healthcare crisis that will later become a financial crisis, companies must look beyond reducing costs, staffing or operations. They must be concerned about taking care of their company's human talent, having it identified, caring for it and above all relying on it to solve the crisis and obtain tangible and fast results.
The reality is that COVID-19 is going to leave many bankruptcies. With this perspective and without leaving optimism aside, we must wait for the best but prepare to face difficult challenges that only with talent, fresh ideas and innovative proposals can be solved.

Photo by:   Jaime Zapata