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HR as the First Responder: Lessons about Fighting the Coronavirus



Written By: Vikas Dua

Lessons for the HR fraternity from the Heroes of the War against the Coronavirus

At the frontline of the war against the Coronavirus pandemic have been thousands of health, security and support workers. While the regulatory and administration teams have been in the background, it has been these warriors who have taken on the onerous task of tackling this unseen enemy, head on.

Striding into their place of work, often without the essential PPE (Personal  Protective Equipment), they have cautiously proceeded to execute their duties, knowing fully well that each minute on the job exposes them to a risk that could be fatal, not only to them but to many others including their own families.

One can only conjecture as to what motivates them in this manner? Unlike the security forces who are aware, right from the time that they decided to serve their nation, that they could one day, be head to head with the enemy, none of the others would have possibly ever imagined  such a scenario.  

So, what is it that gets them to scrub in and get onto with the job day after day, even as the battle rages globally? For the doctor, some may argue that perhaps it is due to the ‘Hippocratic Oath’ they have taken at the start of their study of medicine, to treat the ill to the best of their ability. But surely, it takes more than an oath. And, what about others in industries like Airlines and services like Facilities Management who don’t have such an ingrained and standardised practice, that is known of?

My view is that it is the singular reason for this is the desire to serve – the passion to not let down the very folks who are dependent on them for their well being. This approach drives them to put others before self and focus single-mindedly on their mission, much like an astronaut who blasts off into space to further human exploration, leaving his world far behind, with the knowledge that he may never be back, should there be a mishap.

So, when it comes to the world of commerce and business, what can the HR fraternity learn from these selfless individuals? Clearly, there are lessons for us and here are some of those – 

  1. Lead from the Front – For the corporate world, the HR teams will have to be the ‘First Responders’. Due to the panic and confusion caused by the pandemic, employees have concerns as they stare towards an uncertain future, even as Government and business leaders attempt to figure out the impact of the pandemic over the short, medium and long-terms. HR practitioners will have to take pre-emptive steps forward and assuage these concerns in a proactive, structured manner, even as the developments unfold.
  2. Be Empathetic – The lives of employees are being impacted at multiple levels – personal and professional, both. On one hand, entire industries such as the Airlines, Hospitality and Conferencing look down at a bleak future at least in the near future, employees working in such industries have personal financial commitments such as rentals and EMIs to pay on an ongoing basis. Only the most conservative would have been prepared for such a ‘rainy day’. Many amongst us may have a loved one working at the frontlines as part of the essential services, exposing themselves to the coronavirus danger, day after day. Therefore, HR folks will need to be empathetic when they interact with employees as they face tense moments.
  3. Innovate on the Fly – The famous military quote sums it up very succinctly – ‘No strategy survives first contact with the enemy’. Along similar lines, possibly, no HR team has been coached for such an eventuality. In the world of critical healthcare, medical staff have innovated with medical treatments in the absence of a known vaccine for the coronavirus, with some reports of success. Along similar lines, HR personnel will need to innovate and work with other stakeholders to ensure that the financial impact is minimised to the maximum extent possible.
  4. Personalise, not Standardise – Treatments for those who have been stricken by the coronavirus are personalised basis multiple factors including their age, severity of the infection, prior medical history and more. In this age of standardisation, HR leaders will have to bear in mind that employees impacted by the economic impact of this crisis, will also have to be dealt with in a personalised manner. While this is no easy task by any measure, it can make a substantial difference in how employees move forward and remain engaged with the organisation. One of the main realisations from this crisis is that chasing materialistic lifestyles isn’t of any major consequence in the long-term; health is paramount. HR teams that come across as being genuinely concerned about their workforce will create affinity for the brand in the minds of those working with them.
  5. Communicate with Transparency –  At a time like this, unfortunately, rumours also gain credence fueled by the apprehension of the multitudes.  We have all witnessed the daily briefings being held by Heads of State in some countries, or regular updates shared by bodies such as WHO (World Health Organisation). Along similar lines, colleagues in the HR function also need to ensure that timely information regarding the supportive steps being taken by their organisation is shared so that employees are prepared well enough for the disruptions expected going forward. 
  6. Guide and Coach – Over the last few months, health professionals have guided millions of people on the correct way to wash their hands and to practice social distancing – acts that can control the spread of the harmful coronavirus and save lives. In the world of business, there is no doubt that the dynamics will change. While some roles will shrink, new ones will emerge. It will then rest on the shoulders of HR leaders to help those displaced, to pick up new skills and new direction for themselves, so that they can build stronger careers going forward.

In this way, the HR community will need to rise to the occasion. The rapid, global spread of this virus has caused changes in thought, lifestyles and practices. Even as humanity recalibrates and charts out a new optimum framework to define ‘success’, HR professionals across the world should aim to redefine the very basics of the science and art of ‘Human Resource Management’, viz. to design the strategic approach to maximise employee performance in a company or organization such that they help their business gain a competitive advantage. 

In what other ways, can HR professionals step up to the challenge? I’d love to hear your views. Do connect with me on LinkedIn (vikas.dua) or drop me an email at


About the Author:

Vikas Dua is an accomplished HR and recruitment professional with over 15 years of experience in the field, having worked with both start-ups and large corporations like Wipro, Concentrix and Startek Aegis, driving hiring in the APAC region. Currently, he is Chief HR Mentor at—a disruptive HR Tech firm working on enhancing and democratizing knowledge sharing in the academic space. A TEDx Speaker, Vikas is also an active Vlogger and Blogger, who shares insights under his self-designed ‘HR in my Heart’ brand umbrella.


Wellbeing @ Work Summit Middle East 2021 – where balance, resilience and authenticity break the Mental Health Stigma



Written by: Cinzia Nitti

Globally, 2020 has been a year like no other. Coronavirus pandemic caused a massive business disruption; transformation has been key in supporting employees and catalyzing workplace changes. There was a rush to adapt and reinvent Business Models. Organizations had to rethink and reconsider how they deliver services and strengthen their Organizations through a forward-thinking Digital strategy. To be more agile and responsive in such uncertain times, we need to respond to challenges and adapt quickly to new scenarios by moving from rigid hierarchies to leaner and more flexible structures.

But what about Mental Health at Work, and why is it essential?

What’s the Office of the Future?

Within the Wellbeing @ Work Summit Middle East 2021, HR Leaders tried to normalize the conversation about Mental Health by putting the topic first, enabling self-care and professional support, raising awareness, and building knowledge around its related issues. Nowadays, personal and work life are more intertwined than ever, so it becomes vital to create balance: the more employees feel free to talk about Mental Health, the more they can prevent struggle and breakout at the Workplace. HR leaders play a crucial role in making an IMPACT by pushing new solutions, promoting work-life balance, redesign workloads, and supporting their Teams.

In this general frame, Irada Aghamaliyeva (MENA Diversity, Inclusiveness & Wellbeing Leader at EY) affirmed: “Workplaces that are inclusive foster enhanced employee wellbeing; employees with high levels of wellbeing are more inclusive”. How can Organizations increase employees’ resilience and embed sustainable Leadership behaviors in the post-covid reality?

Dr. Irada Aghamaliyeva introduced the Mindfulness practice in the Workplace and highlighted its benefits on a large scale: improved wellbeing and resilience on a physical level; positive emotions, self-regulation, empathy and awareness of social dynamics; learning and innovation thanks to the implementation of flexible thinking, intuition and problem-solving processes. So breaking the stigma is possible, starting from personal wellbeing to sustain positive energy and fuel resilience.

About the Power of Empathetic and Authentic Leadership, Dr. Rima Ghose Chowdhury (EVP & Chief Human Resources Officers at Datamatics Global Services) stresses the importance of Leadership roles today. The virtual environment employees are working in, makes them more vulnerable due to a lack of balance between emotional and authenticity traits. Authenticity is the primary factor in effective leadership, regardless of the leadership style. Putting employees first as a strategic priority and hearing their voices to guide strategy; embracing agility to work more effectively in tumultuous time; including a multigenerational work-force: these are the key concepts within Dr. Rima’s motto “Empowering is to enable”. Through motivation and filling emotional support needs, the Empowering Teams Process leads to employees’ safety, esteem, and self-actualization. 

The Wellbeing @ Work Summit delivers strategic direction, advice and inspiration from employers and experts from across the world to help you create a more compassionate corporate culture that delivers results. To know more about the FOW Future of Work Insights platform around the world, click here:

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The Wellbeing @ Work virtual Summit Middle East returns for its 5th annual event on 22-24 February 2021



The summit provides an innovative and experiential virtual learning opportunity for our audience of CEOs, benefit and reward business leaders and senior HR professionals. The information and knowledge gained from attending this event allow the opportunity to make strategic wellbeing and mental health decisions within an organization, supporting our mission to create more flourishing and thriving workplaces. Never before has the mental health and wellbeing of your employees been so important. The Wellbeing @ Work Summit includes keynote speeches, panel discussions, workshops, and fireside chats alongside unrivaled networking with leaders across the Middle East using our AI-enabled matchmaking platform. This is far more than a webinar! An engaging 3-day event providing you invaluable insight and tools to create thriving workplaces.

Key Reasons to Attend:

  • An engaging AI-enabled matchmaking platform to make invaluable connections & host virtual meetings up to 2 weeks before the three-day festival
  • Learn how multinational organizations are creating workplaces where employees thrive in the new world
  • Campfire panel discussions informing workplace change & mental health solutions
  • Middle East-based employer case studies providing the secrets to employee wellbeing success
  • International experts bringing best-practice from across the globe
  • Invaluable networking with business leaders from across the Middle East

The Wellbeing @ Work Summit delivers strategic direction, advice and inspiration from employers and experts from across the world to help you create a more compassionate corporate culture that delivers results. The design and implementation of a holistic wellbeing and mental health programme that delivers healthy outcomes and a more productive organization is paramount right now. 

In addition, the results of the extensive Middle East region-wide survey on wellbeing and mental fitness in organizations across the region made in partnership with Cognomie will be presented during the event.

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DECODING FUTURE HR: Global 24 hour virtual event | 19 and 20 January 2021



DECODING FUTURE HR: Today’s challenges are tomorrow’s trends and opportunities

Global 24 hour virtual event | 19 and 20 January 2021

The world in 2020 has changed to a ‘new normality’ but what’s that ‘new normality’ everybody talks about? Is it here to stay? How is it affecting us in our daily lives in the different versions of ourselves? As a customer, an entrepreneur, a parent, a friend…a worker…

Our job is a key part of our lives and we are indeed living through a fundamental transformation in the way we work. Automation and ‘thinking machines’ are replacing human tasks and jobs, and changing the skills that organisations are looking for in their people. These momentous changes raise huge organisational, talent and other HR challenges. It has become clear that few organisations are likely to revert to pre-pandemic practices even after a vaccine is found.

Decoding Future HR 2021 is bringing you the ideology of how today’s challenges are becoming tomorrow’s trends and opportunities resulting in HR excellence.

Why you should attend:

  • Learn about the trends and best practices shaping future HR
  • Get valuable insights from expert speakers
  • Share ideas and research to help your organisation reach its goals
  • Understand what do employees want in ‘New Normal’
  • Develop new vision for HRBP and Centre of Expertise
  • Identify, integrate and understand stakeholders to create an intentional employee experience
  • Approaches and elements to leadership development.

Some of our confirmed speakers:

  • Tshepo Yvonne Mosadi , Human Resources Director, The HEINEKEN Company
  • Sarah Tabet, Global HR Director/ D&I Leader | Author for “Inclusion Starts with U”, Schneider Electric
  • Wadah Al Turki, Country Talent Manager KSA and Bahrain, IKEA
  • Lesha Chakraborti, Head of HR – EMEA, Travelex
  • Shaban Butt, Director HR & Administration, The Coca-Cola Company
  • Sajjad Parmar, Head of Rewards – APAC, eBay
  • Katey Howard, VP, Talent Management AMESA, Pepsico
  • Chen Fong Tuan, HR & General Affairs Director, Samsung Electronics
  • Prerna Ajmera, Senior Director, HR Experiences and Solutions, Microsoft
  • Václav Koranda, Vice President Human Resources / Member of the Board of Directors, T-System
  • Amy MacGregor, VP Employee Experience, Global HR, Manulife
  • Adwait Kashalkar, People Analytics and Programme Management Leader, APAC, Mastercard

Click here to view all speakers:

At Wisdom we remain positive that ‘normality’ will soon return and that we will be able to physically meet together once again as speakers, delegates and sponsors at our beautiful venues around the world. But meanwhile, life continues and we need to keep in touch and learn from each other. This 24-hour virtual event will be of great benefit and value to your businesses and its continued development during these challenging times. While this virtual event comes at a lesser cost, it provides for now a wider reach into an international audience, with flexibility of access to content as well as allowing you to have the same opportunity as at a face-to-face session for one-to-one business meetings. We look forward to welcoming you in January.

Date and time: 19-20 January 2021Where: Virtual engaging platform
  Further information and bookings:        Contact:   #WSDM_BI
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