As we look forward to the next phase of recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, CEOs, HR pros, and employees are acknowledging that in the future, work is going to look very different.

Glint’s Head of People Science Justin Black recently sat down with industry expert Josh Bersin in a virtual fireside chat to discuss the questions on every HR pro’s mind: How do we “return?” 

Here are the top five takeaways from their conversation: 

HR is having its golden year

Bersin noted that the many workplace disruptions and changes we’ve seen in the past few months fall squarely in the laps of HR leaders. 

“This is the golden year of HR,” he said. “HR professionals are being asked to lean into a very, very difficult situation and take charge of one of the most important things in business all over the world, which is keeping people safe and keeping people productive, and allowing people to take care of their home lives, their family lives, and their jobs in the middle of a transformation.” 

“It’s really an important time for HR, and I think HR is raising its visibility and its strategic importance in every single company all over the world,” Bersin said. 

The ‘Big Reset’ has four stages 

Bersin believes almost all organizations are experiencing a major transformation, which will likely come in four stages:

React. Bersin defines this as “what happened, where did it happen, who’s at risk, what countries are affected, what countries are not affected,” etc. He also stated that most organizations already went through a “react” phase. 

“I have a feeling there is going to be more of [the react phase] because the virus is coming back in certain places,” he said.

Respond. In this phase, companies ask their people to work from home, or determine which employees are essential for on-site work. This takes a huge amount of time and energy, and a lot of it is “stuff HR people didn’t know how to do, so we had a lot of learning going on there,” Bersin said. 

Return. This period includes organizations learning how to make the return process safe.

“People are afraid to come back,” he said. “They’re afraid to get on planes, they’re afraid to get back into the offices…‘Do I have to wear a mask?’, ‘Under what conditions?’ and so forth.”    

Transformation. Bersin said every company is going through the process of deciding “how their products and services are going to vary because the consumers won’t buy things the way they used to before, either. So, everything we go to market with, how we sell, how we serve customers, what we sell, is changing, too.” 

Bersin mentioned that “HR is involved in all [four stages] because all of that has to do with employees, and skills, and emotional issues, and family issues, and jobs, and roles, and pay, and performance management. So, there are a lot of HR issues at the core of responding to this pandemic.” 

Looking for a deeper dive into the phases and how to navigate them? Here are resources to support the phases: Respond, Recover, and Reimagine.

People Success is critical to business success 

People Success is bringing your best self to work in order to do your best work. Bersin mentioned that these challenging times are “waking everybody up to the fact that all this ‘people stuff’ that HR people have been talking about, and other people have either been listening to or not listening to, actually is critical.” 

Additionally, he stated that everyone is coming to the realization that “no company is going to be successful if the people don’t feel safe and supported in their jobs. So, that is an easy thing for HR people to understand. It’s not an easy thing for a hard-nosed business or sales leader to understand. But we are all beginning to come to that conclusion.” 

Checking in should just be checking in 

Bersin said that “checking in with people is maybe one of the most important parts of management. And checking in doesn’t mean micromanaging, it doesn’t mean asking them for their status all the time. It means checking in.” 

With so many employees working remotely, Bersin noted that managers can check in simply by  “picking up the phone and calling someone or texting them and saying, ‘How’s it going?’…These small interactions with people, listening to them, giving them just a note, ‘Hey, I’m here if you need any help’—those little things are basically what management is all about.”

So, during these times in which remote work is the norm, leaders and managers have to trust their employees to get their jobs done. As long as people feel comfortable and supported in their job, checking in to just check in is all managers need to do to ensure progress.   

Ensuring employee health and safety is key for a successful return to workplace

While many organizations have started to develop playbooks for return to work, Bersin said the fundamental problem they are facing is “this sense of safety and [employees asking], ‘Will I be protected?’… ’Do we have meetings?’ ‘How many people do we have meetings with?’ ‘What are the protocols for sitting down in the office together?’ ‘If I feel sick and I don’t come to work, am I going to get sick pay?’ ” 

“We’re in a ginger stage of building confidence that people can come back,” he said. “I think one thing to remember is that it is probably better to go a little slower, because if you have an infection [in your office],… you have to start from scratch convincing people to come back.”

In general, Bersin notes that this is a tricky time. Leaders need to ensure they are doing what is best for their employees and their safety when considering return-to-workplace plans.  

Interested in hearing the full conversation, including Q&A from your peers? Listen to the full conversation.