Overview of 2020

Although 2020 was rife with challenges, it was also a year of firsts and achievements. Despite the obstacles, the HR division continued to deliver on its mandate without missing a beat. We found new ways of doing old things and efficient ways of doing new things. We delivered on pre-set plans, deferred others, and added new ones based on the evolving situation. At the heart of it all, we strived to work closely across the organization to ensure our employees felt cared for. If there was ever a time to show our employees how much we valued them, 2020 was the year. And while the employee experience has always been part of how we do things, it took center stage during this unusual year. Be it communication, revision of policies, or changes in our modus operandi, the impact of every decision on employees was considered more than ever before.

Catering to a Diverse Workforce

We have always taken the diversity of our employee base into account when considering policies, communication, processes, and other matters; “think global, act local” was more than a platitude for us. This took on new meaning throughout 2020, when the team learned to listen for subtle signs from constituents and react accordingly, be it those who wanted constant and regular contact and updates from a person rather than an email, those who just wanted to chat, and those who preferred to proceed as though it was business as usual. It was critical that the team stay abreast of any local legislation that affected stay at home orders, social distancing, quarantine requirements, and pandemic-related issues, and ensure they are captured in any corporate decisions or policies.

Navigating the Pandemic

The “human” in Human Resources was front and center in 2020. It was clear to us that we needed to focus on and address employee needs on both the individual and professional levels.

Moving quickly in response to lockdown measures, the firm produced the Go-To Quarantine Guide, designed to compile available resources that would keep employees informed of pandemic-related developments across our geographic footprint, relieving them of the overwhelm of finding credible information sources themselves. We also included a multitude of resources aimed at helping employees and their families navigate the unprecedented situation we all found ourselves in without warning. We were painstakingly aware of the challenge of parents juggling (and struggling) with entertaining children at home, helping with schoolwork, and doing their own work, and tried to do what we could to alleviate these pressures.

In anticipation of the inevitability of COVID-19 reaching our workplace, it was essential to put in place a robust framework that clearly outlined a protocol for handling cases that was in line with local regulations and what the firm deemed right for the safety and wellbeing of our employees and their families. We also needed to ensure that sick employees and their families were taken care of.

We also worked to impart a sense of normalcy when and where possible, and handle things as though it was “business as usual even amid these changes. Despite the chaos and uncertainty, we successfully finalized the implementation of a major 3-year state-of-the-art HRIS, handled all interviews and hiring assessments virtually, and conducted the onboarding of new hires virtually. The division also kick-started the firm’s first ever Employer Branding project, aimed at redefining and articulating the firm’s employee value proposition, considering the transformation into a full-service financial institution.

Employee Development

In light of the irregular and unprecedented circumstances of the year, it was essential for our commitment to our employees’ growth and development to remain unwavering. Accordingly, we needed to find ways to swiftly adapt, particularly after the world seemingly switched to virtual processes overnight. As a result, we pivoted and took our annual DNA (Development Needs Assessment) event online. Only in its second year, an event conceptualized to hand employees control of their career development, took place, as scheduled, a mere two weeks after the beginning of lockdown measures, resulting in learning opportunities for 649 employees.

The newfound focus on virtual posed a golden opportunity to introduce virtual classroom learning. The key was to find the right content and learning partner, and nothing was timelier than the syndicated Think on Your Feet program. Delivered to managers navigating their teams through the unknown only a few weeks after lockdown commenced, the subject matter was relevant and actionable, and the delivery dynamic and engaging. We were finally able to bring employees to see virtual classroom learning as a viable option.

Capitalizing on the acceptance of online learning, we successfully ran all four pre-planned programs under the umbrella of The Academy, covering 61 employees from 14 departments across the firm.

Outlook for 2021

As we plan for 2021, we are working to ensure we do not lose sight of the learnings of 2020. While the world slowly returns to a semblance of normalcy in some aspects, we continue to take advantage of the power of technology and remote interaction. Rather than simply tweaking programs and processes originally conceptualized for in-person interaction, to work virtually, we are revisiting our offering and re-building programs and workflows consciously for the virtual world, focusing on our annual DNA, promotions, hiring and onboarding processes, among others. While we look forward to bringing employees from all over EFG Hermes together in one classroom in person, we also plan to capitalize on the success of our virtual learning trials long after the pandemic is over.