Extract from “The HR Challenge – How COVID tested human resources”, Geelong HR Index 2020.

As COVID came to the Geelong region, we focussed on what was needed to keep ourselves and our families safe from the virus. It was a personal journey or one the family unit experienced – adapting to different ways of living, studying and working within the confines of COVID.

However, another unit that was compromised was our region’s employers. For each company there is a family unit; the people – those working full-time, part-time, casual or contract. While we were considering our own experience, our organisations were working extremely hard to maintain their establishment and the people therein. Some of our businesses were fighting for survival.

The greatest challenge for our region’s employers according to Harvest Talent Recruitment and People Solutions’ Geelong HR Index Survey was the psychological safety and wellbeing of its workers. We have seen the campaigns – everywhere you look there is an article, presentation, workshop or advertisement for mental health support. The reason is, it is one of the greatest  challenges individuals have had to overcome – 68% of 85 surveyed employers concur. We, as individuals, groups and whole organisations need to be mindful and responsive to those presenting with mental health symptoms or conditions. Equally important we need to help improve our people’s mental health either through awareness or via tools and strategies they can employ when they experience feelings of worry, anxiety, uncertainty and stress. By doing so our organisations and our people become safe from psychological risk.

Other pressure on employees, according to the survey, were:

– Moving to remote/home working (49%)
– Achieving similar productivity levels with the new ways of working (44%) and
– Abiding by hygiene and social distancing measures (35%).

For employers the biggest challenges included:

– Adapting to daily changes in regulations and restrictions (62%)
– Maintaining personal resilience to withstand the workload (51%)
– Updating contracts, agreements, policies and procedures (46%) and
– Continuity and workforce planning amidst the crisis (45%)

The Geelong HR Index Survey report for 2020 covered 11 industries and while the above trends were found regionally each sector had its own challenges.

For our practical sectors of Agriculture/Food, Engineering/Manufacturing, Construction and Transport – they were most challenged by the regulations, employing hygiene and social distancing protocols and achieving similar productivity levels given the changes to work. While these industries are a “get on with it and get it done” breed, psychological safety was deemed by the construction industry as its greatest HR challenge.

Sectors such as energy and resources, government and public sector were challenged by moving to remote working and the personal toll on HR departments of the increased workload and volume of enquiries.

The Education and Sport/Leisure/Tourism sectors were our major casualties and cited sustainability as the core focus. They had to field a volume of enquiries from staff and navigated standing down staff and letting staff go in addition to continuity and workforce planning.

2020 Geelong HR Index.

Survey Findings from the Geelong HR Index – 2020 were released on 25 November 2020. Click here to access more information.

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