COVID-19: Re-Defining the working of Human Resource Departments in Hospitals

BY: Dr George Fernandes (GM Medical Advisory Services) - 03 Nov-2020


The healthcare sector (both medical and non-medical) inherently has been slow towards adaptation of technology. Implementing technology in hospitals was tough as there was a substantial financial impact on the year of its implementations, process disruption due to realignment of processes between human and technology, huge push back from employees and end users on its acceptance and the need of a huge investment of time and efforts in teaching on how to use the technology. Since technology could provide a factual evidence of an employee’s performance, it was considered a threat by some.
Prior to COVID-19, very few hospitals invested in technology within the human resource department as technology was limited to attendance and pay-roll management, re-imbursements, and in few hospitals goal settings, appraisal systems and claims management. The KPIs of the HR were limited to attrition rates and ability to manage complains. The HR department was generally overshadowed by “financially performing departments”. 
However, during the COVID-19, the criticality of having a high performing and exceptional human resource department was realized by the organizations.  During the pandemic, some hospitals closed due to being quarantined or due to the financial impact.  Hospitals that managed to survive in the initial period did not have any business continuity process as they never had planned for such an impact on its “people”. Most HR departments depended on people than on processes that were automated. The main issues that HR had to deal with were

1. Employees unable to come to work due to lack of transport or because employees were afraid when the pandemic broke out.  This was mainly due to lack of communication, providing of assurances, ability of put effective infection barriers with the hospital and for personal protection of the employee.
2. Employees were prevented to go to work by their respective societies, threatening them that they will not be allowed to return back home if they worked in a COVID hospital. These employees were not able to get help from the hospital HR as the hospital HR was clueless on what steps to be taken.
3. Finding residential apartment for employees who were ready to work but unable to go home.
4. Making make-shift accommodations within the hospital for COVID positive, suspect and COVID negative employees.
5. Policy on Employee’s relatives who got COVID.
6. Salaries could not be paid.
7.Policies on whether to pay salaries to employees who did not come to work due to whatever reason.
8. What amenities to provide the employees who were coming to work.
9. Union issues.
10.Terminations of employees and discipline actions for not attending work??
11. Lay-offs and what will be the payouts.
12. Getting new vendors as most out-sourced staff stopped attending hospitals.
13. Urgent recruitment of nurses and technical staff.
14. Break down in communicating with employees.
15. Lack of transparency between decisions made by senior leadership and other employees.
16. Lack or not well developed business continuity plan for HR.
18. Disconnect between the employees and the HR 
19. Inability to deal with emotions related to COVID illness of the employee, death of the employee or death in the family of the employee.
20. Lack or decreased investments in automation of processes.
21. Lack or decreased training in skilling and multi-tasking.

Moving forward, hospitals have realized the importance and need of a human resource department which can be benchmarked to the other sectors such as manufacturing or technology firms. The change is already happening.  Hospitals are now looking for HR leaders who are technology savvy, quick, rational thinkers, skilled and swift implementers with servant leadership skills to set the right culture, structure and tone in the organization. 
How hospitals handle the recovery will define their brands with both their workforce and their customers, establish their reputations for years to come, and determine their future competitiveness. 

For workforce strategies, hospitals need to establish critical priorities for the next 12 to 24 months as they position themselves for new realities. We believe that workforce strategies in the recovery phase will be best orchestrated through five critical actions: reflect, recommit, re-engage, rethink, and reboot. These actions can help organizations to bridge the crisis response to the new normal by laying the foundation to thrive in the aftermath of the crisis. The various strategies that the human resource department is now focusing on are:
1. Employee personalization
2. Interview process change with more on-line interactions, reliance on data for referral checks, on-line checks on knowledge and job suitability etc
3. A focus on wellness and mental health
4. Counseling and collaboration and effective constant communication
5. Workplace flexibility
6. Focus on recruiting highly skilled, out  off the box thinkers and multi-taskers 
7. Reinforcing Organisational values 
8. Recognizing employees efforts
9. Employee upskilling and multitasking
10. Continuity Planning Is Vital: Black Swan Events Happen All The Time
11. Time Data Really Matters
12. Move Fast And Come Together
13. Distributed Authority Is Key
14. Do Less With Less
15. Going Digital Is Imperative
16. Remote Work is Real and It’s Big.
17. Caring, Listening, and Empathy Are Priority
18. Educating and equipping the workforce 
19. Driving engagement through innovation
20. Sense employees’ need for support
21. AI-driven technology
-to help administrate their human capital
-to autonomously screen candidates and move prospective hires through the application process, saving HR teams untold hours. 
-to monitor employees so they can strategically address performance issues on an individual basis
-Automation of several routine manual task including sorting of CVs, issuing standard letters and calculating leaves
22. Employee self service through apps for learning, goal-setting, reimbursements and claims
23. HR analysis for providing insights on spotting and retaining talent, uncovering trends and identifying potential problems
24. Framing New Age Policies - Considering the business continuity plan to deal with such exigencies, Post COVID-19, organizations need to have system, procedure and policy in place. Organizations need to review policies on workplace flexibility, remote working & contractual staffing and should review and clarify polices around pay and benefits.

#COVID #HumanResource #Healthcare #Hospitals #Technology @Voiceofhealthcare

Partners & Associates