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How Covid-19 has made HR tech a new priority for CTOs

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa)

It was not so long ago, that when organizations embarked on technology upgrades, HR was traditionally left behind. Then came the importance of employee engagement and thankfully, over the last couple of years, people have become a key area for the board to invest in and engage with.

Now, with global workforces beginning to return to offices in a world that was unimaginable at the start of 2020, the focus is on HR tech once more, but what is being demanded of it has evolved dramatically. HR technology is now the most pressing issue for CTOs to solve and for very different reasons. Employee wellbeing has developed a new meaning and organizations need to prioritize this not just to be seen as a good employer and to attract new talent, but to adhere to government regulations in respect to workforce safety.

Simply put, much of what businesses have taken for granted is no longer fit for purpose. The consequences of poor employee management have become a matter of public health, not just internal grievance. And not having an accurate handle on where and when employees are working may now threaten the success, wellness, and reputation of the whole organization. Managing this issue is increasingly lying at the door of the technology leaders within those organizations.

The solution to this challenge is multi-faceted and relies on the humans using systems as much as it does on the systems themselves. That said, technology has a significant role to play. Insightful, active tech which allows a deeper and clearer understanding of employee behavior and risks to their wellbeing will underpin a proper ‘return to work’ strategy in the face of Covid-19, but also in response to other issues such as changing employee expectations on flexible working.

CTOs within companies now need to consider new functionality that will support what is a huge responsibility for HR in keeping people well, located, and productive in a new home-office way of working.

Are you in or out?

On any given day before the pandemic, it would not have seemed hugely important to know which staff were in the office and which were not. Perhaps one or two of your team were working from home, one was on holiday and one was unwell, with everyone else in the office at their desks as usual. Managers would have noted absences more by exception than the rule, and there would be no formal documentation to support the occasional homeworker who had made a request because the gasman was visiting, or they had a doctor’s appointment booked.

This has changed very quickly. Now, social distancing requirements mean that office capacity is considerably reduced – and managers can’t have their whole team in at once on the same day. A rota is needed, but it needs to be fully secure and not open to mistakes or misinterpretations – it also has to be online and in real-time to reflect daily changes in the same way that our towns are ruled by the changing R rate.

A digital rota can be easily managed, and while simple, can transform what is an admin heavy, mistake-prone process for HRs otherwise using emails, excel spreadsheets, or forms to confirm who is in or out of the office.

Breaking the illness taboo

Asking employees ‘what’s wrong with them’ when logging a sick day is frowned upon in the UK when the absence is short – a day or two. After a few days a doctor’s note is required. In other countries it is actually deemed harassment to ask employees this question. This comes from a good place – employees should be trusted by their employer, while being able to focus on getting better. Yet the onset of a global pandemic means we need to change this approach. If your staff are unwell, it is imperative to know whether they are exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19, or in fact any illness which can have a detrimental impact to the wider team if left unresolved. This then links to traceability – having systems to know who has come into contact with whom, and which teams need to be notified. Platforms like this can also tag employees or groups in a system, who have informed the company of Covid-19 symptoms, and the data pulled to better understand the risk to the organization.

Shred the paper

Unbelievably, absence and holiday related documentation still lived in Excel spreadsheets and paper forms among many organizations until the pandemic hit. Now with people remote working, these systems simply must live in the cloud, and employees must be able to access them to manage their own allowances. Managers here gain the additional benefit of analytics and trends to support proactive management of the workforce wellbeing, now a critical factor when they are rarely meeting their employees face to face. HRs being able to signpost employees to online resources when needed is crucial now with remote working, where it is harder to spot individuals struggling. Analytics on employee absence can also tell leaders a lot about problems with individuals, offices, and teams, as well as resourcing issues before they hit, and become a bigger problem.

Doctor HR

With the virus now among us for the near future, sickness has become a topic in focus. HRs are starting to link their systems into virtual GPs with access to medical advice and clinics, to not just monitor, but help employees manage their wellbeing. This is a whole new remit of the organization, but again, one driven by the global environment we have found ourselves in. It is well reported that mental health issues, already on the rise, will grow. Now is the time for businesses to act pragmatically and with sensitivity and offer their employees access to similar platforms that can support both their physical and mental health.

The world has changed in six months – and so must technology. The CTO has felt the pressure to adopt a completely different and critical level of responsibility, and they need the right systems in place to manage this.

Steve Arnold, CEO, e-days