A Conversation with Vikesh Mahendroo: COVID’s Impact on the role of HR

Vikesh Mahendroo, Former President of Mercer, weighs in on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on hiring, talent development, and the future work, and his newest venture with Nelson Rockefeller Jr.

Vikesh has over 25 years of experience in leadership and human resources.  He is the former CEO of Intrepid Learning Solutions, a firm specializing in the design and delivery of business-focused learning solutions. Prior to serving as Intrepid CEO, he was Global Executive Vice President of Mercer Human Resource Consulting, and also served as President of the U.S. company. Vikesh received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Economics from St. Stephen's College, Delhi, India, and an MBA from Columbia University. He is a Board Director of Intrepid, Landesa (a global land rights organization), Frontier Signal, and the HR Certification Institute, an affiliate of the Society of Human Resources Management.

The COVID experience will likely have a far-ranging impact (short term and long term) on the role of HR in human capital starting from hiring to development—types of jobs, profiles of ideal candidates, hiring versus retraining—to name a few areas:

  • The short term reaction in many industries (will note exceptions) will be to reengage with furloughed employees and build the business back up to the potential before ramping up hiring. There will likely need to continue social distancing and that will have an impact on work/office space design from largely the open plan designs in vogue. WFH is likely to continue for some employees while the above reconfiguration is underway. The emphasis will be on providing the skills to be effective at WFH in the form of resource guides and the right technology platform. Employees savvy with technology, with the ability and flexibility to adapt continuously and the resilience to be productive without much in-person interaction, will likely be more successful than others. All this has a major bearing on how HR interacts with the workforce. 
  • Some industries will need to ramp up hirings such as logistics and supply chain, technology products (particularly those that support WFH), call centers, and online merchandising. There could be some redeployment in companies, for example, from in-store to online sales, from producing autos to producing ventilators, but there will be new needs as well. I have already seen a steady migration of workers from the restaurant and hospitality businesses to home delivery of groceries and prepared foods, as one example. There will be some retraining needed here. Almost 25 million people have filed for unemployment.  Many of these will be evaluating options for the type of work they might do in the future.  These are tough times so people have the incentive to grab at any opportunity that offers the possibility of work.
  • Longer-term, our COVID experience might force HR to think about two broad areas:  What are the ideal set of competencies/attributes that will be needed to be successful in a particular company or industry?  For example, there might be a premium on adaptability and the ease with which people can transition to different roles based on business needs; crisis management and even-keeled temperament are other attributes for leaders; in many ways, culture fit becomes even more important; this also has implications for the hiring profile right from college hiring to mid and later career.  The second area is employee development: how to put in training and development programs that will select the right employees to move up, adapt, and be future leaders. 
  • Impact on the recruiting process:  There is almost certainly going to be a big shift to online interviews given WFH for the hiring managers and others involved.  That would place a huge premium on being able to evaluate and assess the employee skills and culture fit remotely minimizing personal interaction.   

Topics: Inner Mobility, Board Member, remote work, remote teams, #covid, human capital

Thoughts? Questions? Comments?

Get the latest updates in your inbox!