By Eduardo Suárez Battán - Partner
May 2020

HR Executive agenda in the current crisis environment

Our firm has conducted a survey every year since 2005 in each semester to survey the issues that most occupy and / or concern the HR executive in Argentina. This semester we are very hesitant to do it because, starting in March, this “black swan” of COVID19 appears that no one faced before and that has had a very strong impact on all of us and on companies.
However, companies and individuals, we have to continue facing this challenge of survival and adapting to the new rules of the game, human behavior and the lack of certainty about what will happen. The term VICA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) is present at its highest level.
When asked by a journalist what HR Executives are doing at this juncture, I replied that "a lot of things and at a speed never imagined". In the first place, all the top managers of the companies, regardless of their size, had to go out to “help and help” their employees, to take care of customers and to take care of finances. In a few days most of the companies were reorganized, both those that could continue to operate under the rules determined by the government, even those that had to close their curtains for an uncertain time. Those that could continue operating had to also take care of their employees with actions that were often unclear or continually changing. Several HR executives told me that they went out to buy laptops for remote work and others to buy chinstraps and alcohol gel. Whatever it takes to care for and protect employees and to operate.
The second phase was to ensure that the collaborators could collect the month of March in some way and in the way that the cash register and the payment chain of each company allowed them. Today there is a lot of disparity in what is being done by company and by industry. There are non-operating activities such as tourism, hotels and the entertainment media; and there are other activities that have a sustained demand such as supermarkets or some mass consumption companies, manufacturers of chinstraps or materials for doctors and health personnel in general.
With this complex panorama, with companies in different business situations and with payment chains that are complicated, HR executives, together with Finance and Legal executives, have had to work hard to give the appropriate recommendations to owners and CEOs. of companies. Thus they are working on various fronts such as handling suspensions, possible salary reductions, application of REPRO or other government aid, contribution payments and other work taxes, bargaining with unions, implementation of remote work and its consequences in containment. They also work to make up for the lack of physical presence of leaders to achieve containment of employees and on other issues to minimize the impact of this crisis on human capital.
In this stage that we are going through, already past the urgency of closing the company or the rapid adaptation to remote work or reduced staffing or in another way to reach the market, HR executives are now working hard on communications with employees to that can transmit clarity in the continuity of their jobs, of the actions that are
they are doing so that the company survives this serious situation or can "navigate" with the greatest possible stability in this uncertain and complex path. There is continuous analysis of the different scenarios that will come from the optimistic of a recovery in a few months, to the most pessimistic, of facing complications for a year or more.
Regardless of the situation of the company, internal and external communications are going to be key and must be honest, clear and simple. You have to achieve credibility and trust. In moments of crisis is where leaderships appear and are the moments of truth ("moment of truth") that will leave their marks for a long time on employees and the general public.
On the other hand, it is a time to help and interact with competing companies and "business partners" in general because it is time to join forces to face this crisis that is unknown how it will impact or evolve. You also have to think about how to help government entities, hospitals, organizations that are working on the battlefront because it is a commitment of the company to society.
But the HR executive will also have to think about the future, what the moment will be like after the crisis. Perhaps we will not be able to say that it is "when we return to normality" because most businesses are going to change the way they interact with their customers, the way they receive payments, the way they relate to the state, and what will offer as products and services.
The technological wave, which many of us said was coming like a tsunami, is already here with us. It has another name and it is something that the whole of humanity did not want you to be like that, but it is happening. There are concrete examples that are already a reality such as the exponential growth of e-commerce (online shopping), forms of payment that are increasingly online (especially in the BtoC), remote work is no longer discussed, the use of robotics in plants and in other administrative areas that will not stop evolving, the collaborative work of people in different geographical locations will be without trips to use modern technological tools. The use of other technology tools that are already present (Block Chain, AI, Analytics, Machine Learning, among others) will increase and others will emerge in the medium term. All this will impact on the collaborators and will change many businesses and cultures of many companies.
These two or three months that continue until the middle of the year are going to be key for HR executives. On the one hand, they must continue to take care of human capital by maintaining contact, remote or not, with employees and strengthening the climate; but also, have the strength to review and negotiate structures, salaries, benefits, social charges, taxes and everything that implies taking care of the human capital of their companies and the private sources of work that are key in the generation of wealth in our country.

Eduardo Suárez Battán


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