Who’s Your Mother? Necessity.

In the HR realm we’re quite fond of categorizing our need to change by using words such as transform, revolutionize or disrupt. We may, periodically, even use the word invention. In organizations the world over, large and small, there have long been plans afoot to make an HR and organizational shift for any number of reasons tied to any number of goals.

For the most part, transforming HR encompasses the need to:

  • Create efficiencies, provide cost savings and position the delivery of HR as a key component of business success
  • Provide exceptional user experiences for all stakeholders (employees, managers, candidates)
  • Enable technology for improvements in areas including process optimization and data utilization while also supporting the need for human connectivity and cultural alignment
  • Engineer the change management process including ongoing (and JIT) communication while preparing the workforce for “the future”

Within the last month or so every single company the world over has realized that “the future,” is no longer an abstract concept somewhere-down-the-road; it’s something that has arrived. The “new world of work” has shown up on our doorsteps (no welcome mat needed) unbidden, unanticipated and without an invitation. Taken by surprise, numerous HR Leaders with a “Kick off HR Transformation Project” on their Q2 (2021) Strategic Plan found themselves scrambling and pivoting (buzzword!) out of necessity.

That’s right; say “hello” to necessity… your new mother.


Of course you’re familiar with the phrase “Necessity is the mother of invention.” The expression, often attributed to Plato (circa 380 B.C.), references the concept that when one faces a problem they will inject additional creativity to devise innovative solutions.  And sitting here in April 2020 organizations (and HR teams) have had their fill of problems.

In the last month they’ve had to adjust to daily (if not hourly) changes to regulatory/legislative acts. Many have had to rapidly design a virtual “workspace” for a (suddenly) remote workforce.  They’ve been called on to work with other members of their leadership team to devise plans for business continuity. They’ve provided support and comfort to employees hovering between fear, uncertainty and sadness.

Out of necessity, numerous leaders have gotten a crash course in how to create something new and unexpected that has an impact and changes something for the better. But the need for invention (or re-invention) won’t end once the #StayAtHome orders are lifted, people head back to the office, and the wheels of commerce start rolling again. Even though it feels as if we’ve only just begun this new way of working, it’s critical that we start planning for the time when we ramp back up. Here are a few (and just a few) questions to ask:

The General Way of Work

  • Did our tech infrastructure (hardware, software and support) permit business to continue? What tools were we missing? What should we consider adding?
  • What enabled employees to successfully work from home? What would have made it better?
  • Did we have robust plans in place for emergency response and business continuity? When will we have a deep debrief to plan for revisions? Should we run some simulations and/or table-top exercises for the future?

Comp, Benefits and other Rewards

  • Did our sponsored benefit plans provide sufficient coverage for our employees at a time of great need? Were we able to provide continuation of coverage for furloughed employees?
  • If we made temporary changes to employee pay what is our timeline for moving pay back to pre-pandemic levels? What role, if any, will performance reviews have in our compensation planning for 2020?
  • Have we identified gaps in our employee wellbeing initiatives? What should we do, moving forward, to treat employee wellbeing in a holistic manner with our increased understanding of how life’s stressors intersect with one’s work/job?

Cultural Touchpoints

  • Have we found new ways to communicate (telling AND listening) with our employees either through the use of new channels or technology? What have we learned and how should we incorporate these new mechanisms in the future?
  • What have we learned about the employee experience and engagement? Was moving activities to a virtual environment effective? How did we personalize the experience? Were managers highly involved or was this seen as an “HR issue?”
  • What will our employees say about how we took care of them throughout this crisis? If they say good things…how do we replicate our actions? If they review us poorly…how do we “fix” that and mitigate the fall-out?

There’s been plenty of invention over the last few months. We’ve been inspired to create NEW things because we had to and not merely because we had a desire for something different. But the innovation, transformation and disruption isn’t over yet.

It’s just beginning.

author: Robin Schooling

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