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business disruption and uncertainty

Managing organizational restructuring amidst business disruption and uncertainty

from  May 24, 2021 | 10 min read

The Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on modern business is undeniable. Varying movement control orders and international travel bans made it difficult to facilitate collaboration between team members and external third parties: as a result, business transformation became a matter of do or die.  

Every aspect of business has changed—from the tools wielded to the methods used to the very people within the organization. The International Labor Organisation estimates that 6.7% of global working hours were wiped out because of the pandemic; many jobs were lost, and entirely new ones created. At the center of this transition is the human resources (HR) manager, who is tasked with guiding the company through continuous states of flux.

The company that can successfully revamp its organizational structure will emerge stronger, leaner, and lighter than ever before. But organizational restructuring is easier said than done. Amidst constant disruption and uncertainty, HR managers must leverage their own digital tools in order to steer their business towards stability.

Organizational restructuring during the pandemic

For some businesses, especially those in the F&B and travel industries, the pandemic was tough. Some businesses owners saw their revenue drop by 90% to 95%—forcing painful retrenchments by HR managers. In Singapore, tens of thousands of jobs were lost, and some said unemployment rates might not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2022.

To mitigate this, the Ministry of Manpower released several programs, such as the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Placement Partners (SGUJS PP) Initiative and the Jobs Support Scheme payout.
The Singapore government also encouraged businesses to stagger work hours or enforce shift systems to minimize in-person contact and avoid retrenchments by reducing, rather than completely cutting, employee hours.

Some company restructures were more drastic. Malaysian company Top Glove closed 28 out of 41 factories in phases due to the spread of Covid-19 among factory workers. Some businesses shut down specific verticals that were no longer profitable: Indonesian decacorn GoJek ceased all on-demand lifestyle services in July 2020, laying off 430 employees in the process.For others, the surge of interest in online services was a boon. This was the case for Singaporean company Mothercare: the brick-and-mortar retailer saw a 60% decline in overall revenue during the first Circuit Breaker, but because its online sales more than quadrupled, the company was able to retain all 150 of its staff.

The HR manager as a catalyst for digital restructuring

Creative human resource management has proven critical to business success post-pandemic. Companies scrambled to capture the most promising opportunities and move to online business models; employees naturally needed to adjust, too.

Businesses looking to achieve success can learn from Mothercare, which rolled out a number of HR changes soon after the pandemic to cope with the sudden loss of revenue. Group managing director Pang Fu Wei implemented temporary management pay cuts and subsidized accommodation for their Malaysian staff who couldn't return home because of travel bans. The company also set up a S$50,000 fund to assist their struggling employees.

The pièce de résistance of Mothercare’s strategy was the development of their IT system and refreshed website. Their IT system, created in partnership with Enterprise Singapore, reduces duplications, saves time on administrative work, and automatically tracks user and purchase data. The company retrained and redeployed staff with more relevant roles, such as warehouse and e-commerce fulfillment, and digital nursery advisors, to suit the new focus on online services.

Mothercare’s savvy HR managers and managing directors recognized the business’ new needs and quickly arranged HR policies that would help the business survive. Management’s temporary pay cuts helped the business stretch its limited cash reserves. Once the company stabilized, the lost pay was later returned to employees in the forms of bonuses.

Managing restructuring workloads in the midst of uncertainty

Human resources is a field that demands human interaction and interpersonal skills, but many HR managers are bogged down by data entry and administrative work. This can be avoided with the support of digital software and HR management tools, allowing the manager to spend their valuable time on strategic business development and infrastructure instead.

Digital tools allow businesses to collect granular real-time data on their employees and processes. By analyzing this data, HR managers can identify the most inefficient processes and propose time-saving solutions like robotic process automation, artificial intelligence, and chatbots.

There are many different responsibilities that can be automated:

  • Onboarding new employees and helping them get familiar with the company and one another
  • Managing salaries, benefits, and reimbursements
  • Making regular staff performance assessments
  • Deploying employee benefit programs
  • Scheduling employee training
  • Hosting online training sessions
  • Managing contracts and sending offer letters
  • Collecting feedback from employees

A clear plan of action that enables continual improvement

Governments around Southeast Asia are developing programmes and packages designed to help businesses cope with the pandemic’s impact. Singapore’s government, for example, has spent hundreds of millions on specific stimulus packages, grants, and programs geared towards digital transformation.

Many of these funds are designed to enable company adoption of HR tools, e-invoices, and e-payments. If you’re planning on implementing a few digital tools of your own, there are two main tips you can follow to maximize the results.

Avoid quick fixes and invest in long-term solutions

Many digital transformations fail because of a lack of unified vision. Managers may understand the need to digitalize, but fail to set clear long-term goals or define what “success” looks like.

For example: because of travel restrictions, many employees worked from home at least part of the time. This was a challenge for companies whose workforce was spread out across different countries. To solve this, HR managers were advised to digitally transform their communications to facilitate remote work.

Unfortunately, because businesses were so focused on staying alive for the short-term, many neglected to consider the long-term viability of the solutions they chose. Adopting tools that aren’t aligned with a company’s long-term vision can do more harm than good in overall digital transformation strategies.

In order to truly achieve asynchronous communication and support the increased demand for hybrid work, HR managers can’t rely on quick fixes that keep the company afloat for the short-term. They’ll need to completely redesign the company and reorganize so it can thrive on flexible and hybrid arrangements.

Continually assess company satisfaction

One of the best features of digital tools, platforms, and solutions is the plethora of data they provide. This data can be used as a reference to improve HR processes. When implementing a restructure or digital initiative, HR managers should set measurable results, implement the changes, and review the degree of success they’ve achieved.

Given the accelerating rate of change in digital software and industry-wide best practices, what works now may become obsolete in a relatively short time. HR managers must be able to constantly communicate with management and employees on the ground to ensure that everyone is happy, and take swift action when dissatisfaction arises.

The new, digital role of the HR manager

Individual change is hard enough—never mind that of an entire business or organization. But there are many tools and best practices that HR managers can follow to ensure the highest rate of success. If all goes well, a company can survive and even thrive thanks to the HR manager’s foresight.

Leverage the power of digital to see organizational restructuring initiatives through to the end. If you’re interested in how an end-to-end HR solution can save you time and streamline your workflow, contact Unit4 Prosoft today.



Unit4 Prosoft

Unit4 Prosoft have been serving customers in Asia for 30 years and is trusted by over 1,000 businesses across the APAC region in the manufacturing, healthcare, retail, construction, and professional services industries. Unit4 Prosoft HRMS has modules that support every aspect of your HRMS programs and allows you to manage people’s entire hire-to-retire cycle with a central control center and database. Your people get the flexibility and freedom to have what they need—how, when and where they need it.