HR Tech Number of the Day: employer response to COVID

46%: Percentage of employers that are focused on “caring for their people,” the second stage of employer response to COVID-19, according to the Josh Bersin Academy

Employer responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have run the gamut—some are treading water financially while others are investing their energy in addressing the growing mental health crisis. What organizations have focused on in the last few months could have long-term impacts on their business success, according to new research from the Josh Bersin Academy.

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The organization’s new research, Business Resilience: The Global COVID-19 Pandemic Response Study, surveyed more than 1,300 HR and business leaders about their companies’ responses to the health crisis. Researchers determined that organizations were primarily in one of four response stages, with the majority (46%) currently in the second, focused on caring for their people.

The four stages are:

  • Stage 1: Hope for the best—Keep operations running, furlough or lay off people, focus on financial survival (18%)
  • Stage 2: Care for the people—Aggressively protect workers, workplace, customers, suppliers and the entire supply chain from infection (46%)
  • Stage 3: Drive agility and culture—Educate and support employees and families to move fast, develop cross-functional solutions and stay resilient and productive (15%)
  • Stage 4: Transform and reinvent—Reinvent hiring, job design, performance management and pay to transform to new business and operating models (21%)

What it means to HR leaders

While most organizations are concerned about, and prioritizing, the immediate health and safety needs of their employees, they also need to be strategizing for the long-term, says Josh Bersin, dean of the Josh Bersin Academy.

“Buying [personal protective equipment], establishing safe workplaces and enabling remote work are clearly all important,” says Bersin, who will examine the evolving HR technology market, in light of the pandemic, at next week’s free, virtual HR Tech Conference. “But the research shows these are mandatory responses—activities required for business survival. However, the companies thriving are going much further and they’re focusing on people in even more agile and creative ways.”

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For example, the report found that organizations with Stage 4 responses are 6.7 times more likely than others to engage and retain their workforce and 5.7 more likely to provide employees meaningful work. In terms of organizational outcomes, Stage 4 companies are four times more likely than those in other stages to effectively respond to change and positively impact society. And when it comes to long-term business results, they’re four times more likely to meet or exceed financial targets as well as to satisfy and retain customers, as well as 4.5 times more likely to outperform competition.

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Stage 4 companies foster a culture of worker-driven, experiential learning, embrace failure as an opportunity, build trust and transparency into leadership models and allow HR to lead transformational change, according to the report.

“Leaders need to take accountability for advancing to a higher stage of pandemic response,” researchers wrote. “Some actions are fairly easy to complete, especially as they relate to safety. Others are longer-term journeys that may take years to build. But these stages vitally matter to business, organizational and workforce outcomes, and they create business resilience to not just survive in a crisis but lead and create needed change.”

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