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Human Resources wake up to new coronavirus reality

By Correspondent | April 28th 2020
Family Bank Head of Human Resources Elijah Kariuki.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on all sectors of the economy, the banking industry has not been spared. Financial Standard spoke to Family Bank Head of Human Resources Elijah Kariuki on how the lender is navigating through the crisis from a HR perspective. 

How are banks dealing with the effects of the pandemic in how they serve their customers?

Banks have generally moved to the digital platforms to facilitate customer transactions. These services have been made accessible and free to encourage cashless transactions. Banks are also engaging their customers who have loan facilities with them and whose economic activities have been adversely affected for possible restructure of their loans. As banks, we are also engaging in corporate social responsibility activities to help Kenyans cope with the menace.

Which adjustments have HR departments had to make to ensure productivity during this time?

HR departments more than ever before have now become conscious of the need to keep employees informed and motivated to ensure their productivity remains high. HR teams must ensure they provide the necessary tools for employees to work either from home or from zoned areas other than their usual office space.

HR must now be the leaders on the use of technology for most of the activities in workplaces, such as self-service modules when it comes to leave applications and records, online performance management systems, online training and e-learning programmes, as well as online conferencing tools for workplace meetings. This way, we can keep track of their productivity.

How can team leaders enhance the morale of employees working from home?

Staff working from home are often worried about what is happening and what might happen to their jobs, so constant communication to staff and reassurance will really help them cope with this menace, as well as remain motivated. Provision of performance tools for staff working from home and proper measurement metrics will also keep them engaged.

How critical is it for human resource managers to liaise with communication teams in dealing with clients?

It will be very critical because constant communication to clients is required at this time to ensure our clients are kept abreast with all that is happening. This will be facilitated by our staff, and hence the importance of HR managers to constantly liaise with communication teams to ensure communication going out to clients is accurate and from authorised sources only.

Which safety measures can managers take to ensure the well-being of their employees?

Managers must ensure the provision of masks, gloves for the team handling money, sanitisers, clean water and soap to enhance personal hygiene in workplaces. They must also sensitise staff on social distancing and constantly keep their them informed for personal planning, and ensure that communication reaching employees is authentic and from the approved sources.

Which fundamental changes can we expect in the workplace as a result of this pandemic in future?

For several years now, many organisations have debated in boardrooms on how to implement flexitime. This pandemic has accelerated that discussion and many workplaces will now have to adopt flexitime, as well as work-from-home arrangements.

Many employers have now realised that people need not be enclosed in one place to work, but can work remotely and this has proven to be more cost-effective than having to lease office spaces, workstations and general workplace infrastructure for employees.

Use of teleconferencing technology, such as Zoom, Skype, and BlueJeans, will no longer be viewed as a preserve of high tech organisations but necessary tools for all organisations that want to be efficient and cost-effective. 

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