COVID-19: Resources for HR and People Analytics

(Updated on 15 April)

In what has been the most tumultuous of periods, I’d again first like to wish anyone reading this – as well as their families, friends and colleagues – good health. As the Roman poet Virgil wrote over 2,000 years ago:

The greatest wealth is health

Like most people, I am in a state of shock as each day brings new tragedies, new draconian measures and new disruptions to everyday life. As a father, husband, brother and son, I am worried. My beloved parents are both over 70, and that is naturally the main concern on my mind.

In the nine days since I last updated this article, the number of Covid-19 cases around the world has leapt from just under 1.275m to just under 2m with the number of fatalities now over 125,000 globally. The speed of growth continues to be both startling and frightening.

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Source: Johns Hopkins University – see

Governments flounder

Governments around the world are floundering. They are dealing with the biggest global health crisis since the Spanish Flu of 1918. The next few months will reveal a lot about our political leaders and the early signs aren’t good.

The much maligned former UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, writing in The Guardian, called for governments to work together to solve what the World Health Organisation has now classified as a global pandemic. This is what happened just over a decade ago with the Global Financial Crisis.

The response to Covid-19 by governments has been very different. Perhaps, as Brown suggests, this is because of the rampant nationalism that has increasingly become prevalent in countries around the world. Populism appears to be putting us all at risk. I’m no expert on global pandemics, but a co-ordinated and collaborative effort would surely be a more sensible approach. People’s health is more important than winning a second term.

(Update) Since I wrote the original version of this article, many governments around the world have imposed lockdowns, put together stimulus packages for businesses and citizens and are conducting daily updates to communicate the spread of the disease. Whilst certain leaders still astound with their ignorance, their lack of humility, their obfuscation and their lack of sensitivity others are demonstrating true leadership. In the last few days, The New York Times expose on the failings of Donald Trump’s administration makes for damning reading.

Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York, has been particularly impressive. His riposte to President Trump’s assertion that New York doesn’t need the tens of thousands of ventilators the governor has requested to tackle the Covid-19 health crisis was both measured and telling.

“I don’t operate on what I hope or what I would like to see or what my expectation is. I operate on the data and on the numbers and on the science.”

Businesses suffer

Uncertainty causes panic and stock markets around the world are in freefall with the Dow and the FTSE having their biggest falls since 1987.

The crisis presents an acid test for business. It was only last summer that the Business Roundtable group representing 181 CEOs of some of America’s biggest companies committed to provide value all stakeholders – not just shareholders but customers, employees, suppliers and communities as well.

Covid-19 will put this pledge to its ultimate test. Will they revert to type in the face of the biggest crisis in a generation? There have been a few hopeful early signs: Apple, Microsoftand Amazon have all announced measures to support hourly paid workers and/or retail staff. Let’s hope we hear more stories like these rather than news of huge company layoffs. There’s never been a more important time for companies to invest in the health and wellbeing of their people.

People shine in adversity

It was heartening to see the footage of quarantined Italian singing from their balconies despite the unprecedented position they find themselves in. The human spirit in times of adversity is a wonderful thing.

Conferences cancelled

Spare a thought for organisers of HR conferences. I was due to speak at or attend six conferences between mid-February and the end of April (in reverse order PAFOW in London, the Employee Experience Summit in Vienna, the Wharton People Analytics Conference in Philadelphia, UNLEASH in London, HRCoreLAB in Barcelona and People Matters Tech HR in Singapore).

All have either been cancelled, postponed or like PAFOW shifted to a virtual conference. My thoughts are with the likes of Al Adamsen, Marc Coleman and Ester Martinez – all who have become friends as well as partners over the years.

People must come first

Everything comes second to people’s health whether it means conferences not going ahead as planned, the sudden necessity to stage the biggest remote working experiment in history or even the suspension of football and other sports.

As he often does, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp captured the mood perfectly in a statement released in the last few days. Liverpool are on the verge of winning their first league title for 30 years. They are 25 points ahead of second-placed Manchester City and only need six more points to secure their crown.

The suspension of the Premier League puts that at risk, but Klopp in his inimitable style reminded supporters that football is only “the most important of the least important things,” before going on to add:

Of course we don’t want to play in front of empty stadiums and we don’t want games or competitions suspended, but if doing so helps one individual stay healthy – just one – we do it no questions asked.”

It’s leadership like Klopp’s (if not now the club he represents given their decision to furlough their non-playing staff) that we need to emulate in our governments, companies and in HR. Now is the time to pull together. The role of HR and People Analytics leaders and teams has never been so important. We are here to help our colleagues, our workforce and our companies to get through this pandemic and the recession that will likely ensue.

Resources for HR and People Analytics colleagues

I’ve sought personal solace in writing this article, which as well as my ramblings thus far collect together some articles and resources I hope will be useful for HR and People Analytics professionals in the coming weeks.

Please let me know in the comments section any other resources and articles I can add, and do (if you haven’t already) checkout the brilliant Coronavirus HR Comms & Resources Guide Lars Schmidt has created (see more below).

As Josh Bersin emphasises in one of his articles on Covid-19 (see also below), “People first, business second” has to be the foundation of how companies, HR leaders and heaven forbid governments approach this crisis. The world is watching.


LARS SCHMIDT – Public Coronavirus Company Communications (Google Doc)

Perhaps it’s not a surprise that one of the co-founders of HR Open Source, whose tagline is ‘sharing is caring’, is leading the way in our community when it comes to helping HR professionals deal with the COVID-19 crisis. Hats off to Lars Schmidt for creating the Public Coronavirus Company Communications Google Doc, which has a wealth of content including company response plans, advice on remote work, updates on conference cancellations and articles. Read more from Lars in his Fast Company article: How HR leaders are preparing for the Coronavirus.

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PATRICK WRIGHT – How will Covid-19 impact HR?

One of the world’s leading experts on HR reflects how the best CHRO’s stand up in times of crisis and turning to Covid-19 offers the following reflection: “The coronavirus pandemic will act as one more shock to the system. It will have an impact on company financials, culture, employer brand, and employee value propositions as well as the health of the communities and society in which they operate. Great HR will help guide these organizations to navigate this shock in a way that brings them out on the other side with greater capabilities, better positioned to compete, and with a reputation as a responsible corporate citizen. Poor HR will not. Which will you be?

JOSH BERSIN – Coronavirus Response: People First, Economics Second | The Big Reset: Making Sense Of The Coronavirus Crisis

Josh Bersin’s opinion carries a lot of weight in our industry so the big message in his first article of ‘People first, business second’ is one that is hugely welcomed and a mantra that should be drilled into executives in every company. As Josh highlights people are scared and that means that “we have to create a sense of trust, shared responsibility, and safety.” The article cites The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer (Trust is based on three things: Competence, Ethics and Voice) as well as Amy Edmondson’s research, which finds that companies that promote safety, ethics, and voice drive tremendous business results. Josh’s second article written ten days after the first once again captures the mood perfectly. This time he writes that: “we are in the middle of The Big Reset, a new way of thinking about work, life, business, and leadership,” before putting this in the context of resetting work, budgets, leadership, trust and HR. An outstanding read.

JOSH BERSIN – Responding To COVID-19. Ten Lessons From The World’s HR Leaders

Fascinating write-up of a webcast Josh hosted with seven leading HR executives at the end of March on how organisations like IBM, United Health Group and Novartis have responded to the crisis. Josh outlines ten takeaways (including: “Caring, Listening and Empathy are priority,” and “real-time data really matters”), and summarises the main theme: “There is no going back. The COVID-19 crisis is not only disruptive to every company, but it has created a “Big Reset” as I describe it.”

AMY EDMONDSON – Don’t Hide Bad News in Times of Crisis

Josh referenced her work in one of his articles, and Amy Edmondson strikes a chord again here as she emphasises the importance of transparency in times of crisis. Amy goes on to explain why “transparency simply will not happen without psychological safety: a climate in which people can raise questions, concerns, and ideas without fear of personal repercussion.”

Hiding bad news is virtually a reflex in most organizations, but thoughtful leaders recognize that speaking up early and truthfully is a vital strategy in a fast-moving crisis

DAVE ULRICH & KEITH LAWRENCE – Leadership Confidence in Times of Uncertainty

As Jonathan Ferrar, our CEO at Insight222, remarked to me the other day, it’s in challenging times when true leaders shine. This article highlights seven principles on how to lead an organisation in uncertain times, and like Josh Bersin’s article emphasises that leaders need to put caring for their people above the company itself.

How you treat people in times like these is what will be remembered for generations to come

DAVE ULRICH – HR’s Role in Crisis

“HR’s role in a crisis is ever more critical because the stress of a crisis magnifies actions and creates lingering memories.” Like Josh Bersin, Dave Ulrich is leading during this crisis through the power of his words. In this article, Dave explains why HR’s greatest contribution to business and personal success comes from navigating paradox before outlining how to navigate three of the most demanding paradoxes that arise in this crisis: Care for the Individual and Attend to the Organisation, Do Triage Now and Plan for What’s Next and Make Decisions Alone and Enable Others to Become Decision Makers.

DAVE ULRICH – What’s Next in the Coronavirus Crisis? Phases of a Crisis and HR Responses

Another thoughtful perspective by Dave Ulrich on how HR can navigate the phases of this crisis. Using an accident as a metaphor, Dave then reviews how HR issues around talent, leadership, and organisation can be addressed by business leaders, HR professionals, and individuals themselves (see FIG). Interestingly, in his final words, Dave eschews the notion that this is a ‘new normal’ or a ‘reset’ and instead offers that the ‘transition’ and ‘expertise’ elements of his model are important stages to getting to a new normal.

The ‘new normal’ of identity and adapted insights will vary dramatically by person and organization

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FIG: Phases of a crisis and implications for talent, leadership and organisation (Source: Dave Ulrich)

JOSH BERSIN – COVID-19: The Pulse of HR – What Is HR Doing Now? (NEW)

Judging by the number of articles he has written and the number of webinars he has appeared on, Josh Bersin is putting in an insane amount of hours during this crisis. His latest piece reveals the findings of a study he has been involved in with Culture X and MIT Sloan Management Review to find out what HR teams around the world are doing to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. The FIG below highlights the contrast between what’s top of minds for HR and Employees.

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FIG: Top issues on HR and Employee minds (Source: Josh Bersin)


Covid-19 is essentially a people crisis, so as this BCG penned article outlines people priorities need to be front and centre. Seven core priorities are illustrated below in FIG and described thereafter. “The lessons of the COVID-19 crisis can generate a steep learning curve and sustainably improve corporate resilience as a result—introducing smart work, establishing a culture of trust, upskilling, exploring new avenues.”

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FIG: Covid-19 responses for seven key people topics (Source: BCG)

ESTER MARTINEZ – 5 Painful Questions Lockdown is Bringing to the Fore (NEW)

As Ester rightly opines the forced work from home shift has “stripped back organisational structures to their foundation.” This is leading to some painful questions for companies such as the five presented here by Ester including: i) Which roles are adding value to the business? ii) Do we need an office for everyone? Iii) Does our pay structure make business sense? These are all questions HR leaders and People Analytics teams are tackling.

A sustainable answer (to these questions) will balance business impact and workforce enablement to navigate these challenges.

PAUL HEBERT – Can HR Do Their Future Job?

Paul Hebert looks at how COVID-19 impacts HR’s role now and over the next decade, “The real hard work in HR is just now beginning. I believe this event will impact work this year, next year and the next 10 years. And we need HR to help lead.

THE ECONOMIST – The coronavirus crisis thrusts corporate HR chiefs into the spotlight

Excellent article in The Economist highlighting the importance of the Chief People Officer in the current situation – comparing it to the key role played by the Chief Financial Officer in the Global Financial Crisis. “They must keep employees healthy; maintain their morale; oversee a vast remote-working experiment; and, as firms retrench, consider whether, when and how to lay workers off. Their in-trays are bulging.” The article then highlights a handful of Chief People Officers: Diane Gherson (IBM), Beth Galetti (Amazon) and Mala Singh (EA) whose savvy investments in people analytics in the previous years are now even more dividends during the pandemic. Companies that haven’t invested as wisely in people analytics are likely currently ruing those decisions.

In a pandemic, a chief people officer can make or break a company


VISIER – What You Can Learn About Crisis Management From the People Analytics Community

Hats off to Paul Rubenstein and the Visier team for organising an open forum on 17th March to discuss the use of people analytics in crisis management. The hour long forum featured a number of speakers including Jeremy Shapiro (“You can show your leadership team where employees are and who is most at risk by embedding public data into your systems”), Dan George (who shared how a network analysis can help you determine who is critical from a customer service perspective – see FIG), Jason Averbook (“We need to help our organizations think seriously about the impact of layoffs–and its alternatives“) and Al Adamsen (“There is a great deal of anxiety out there, but people analytics can help alleviate this“). You can watch the recording here and also sign up for the next forumon 26th March.

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FIG: Example of a the kind of network analysis questions to ask of your data in an era of social distancing (Source: Dan George)

MEGAN MARIE BUTLER, NIGEL DIAS, ANDY CHARLWOOD & MIKE ULRICH – How is HR Analytics helping decision making during the Covid-19 crisis? (NEW)

Nice write-up (by Megan) of the findings of research by the HR Analytics Think Tank (Nigel, Andy and Mike) into the questions people analytics teams are being asked by their companies and how these will develop as the crisis unfurls. Click on the link for a full set of charts and also to watch a presentation of the results. Two interesting data points as tasters: i) 79% of respondents said that their people analytics function has added more value to HR decision making than normal, whilst ii) most teams (see FIG) believe their work is confined to reporting and descriptive analysis.

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FIG: What role is People Analytics playing in how your organisation is managing the Covid-19 situation (Source: HR Analytics Think Tank)

VISIER – How to make data meaningful during a crisis

The second Visier Crisis Management Call was hosted on 26 March and was themed around participants shared how organisations can make better tough decisions. This summary is presented in four sections: Putting Data in the right context, Taking charge of the new normal, Navigating the downturn with empathy (“Now is the time to add empathy to analytics” [Jason Averbook]), Questions and storytelling make data meaningful (see FIG below). You can watch the recording here and also sign-up for the next forum on 8 April, when I’ll be one of the guests.

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FIG: Six People Analytics use cases for navigating an economic downturn (Source: Steve Goldberg, Ventana Research)

CHRIS BUTLER – People Analytics for measuring the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) | Tracking COVID-19 Impacts on Your Workforce

Nick Garbis of One Model was also one of the speakers on the open forum organised by Visier (see previous article). Nick presented the level-one questions organisations can ask without a lot of data (see FIG 2a). The first article by Nick’s colleague Chris Butler digs a little deeper and looks at the data required to answer these questions and others that people analytics teams are being asked. The follow-up article outline possible planning phases for the crisis (see FIG 2b) and then describes a tool that One Model has built to support companies during the pandemic.

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FIG 2a: Level one level one questions that organisations can ask without a lot of data (Source: One Model)

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FIG 2b: Phases for Covid-19 planning for organisations and people analytics (Source: One Model)

ALICIA ROACH – How can Workforce Planning help in times of Uncertainty?(NEW)

The crisis means that Strategic Workforce Planning is likely being undertaken by many companies on a daily basis. How do you ensure you don’t cut out capability now that you will need again soon? Put simply, you need to ensure your organisation doesn’t make short-term decisions that destroy your long-term viability. In this article, Alicia Roach examines the impact dynamic scenario planning can have on organisations in times of uncertainty

You need to ensure your organisation doesn’t make short-term decisions that destroy your long-term viability

JAN SCHWARZ – Why people analytics is the platform for an effective Covid-19 response (NEW)

Taking his cue from the article in The Economist referenced above, Jan Schwarz explains how people analytics teams are integrating public health data into their HR dashboards to support employees, allocate resources and focus, measure impact and plan ahead.

HR chiefs need up-to-the-minute data to effectively respond to the Covid-19 threat

KEVIN MOORE – People Analytics and Coronavirus | SERENA HUANG – Concerned about the Coronavirus? Why Your Company Needs People Analytics More Than Ever

Several People Analytics Leaders I’ve spoken to in the past few weeks have told me that they have never been so busy. That is hardly a surprise when you consider – as Kevin Moore and Serena Huang have in their respective articles – the sheer volume of requests they are getting due to the pandemic. Some examples are provided by Kevin and Serena, and as the world emerges on the other side of this unprecedented crisis, expect to hear numerous case studies of the invaluable value provided to organisations by their people analytics teams.

QUINN SLAUGHTER – Data-Driven HRBPs: Reacting Quickly in a Crisis (NEW)

Thanks to Lexy Martin for highlighting this excellent resource from her Visier colleague Quinn Slaughter, which is the first instalment of what promises to be an excellent three-part series analysing how data-driven HR business partners are helping their organisations through the pandemic. The series is based on Visier’s React-Respond-Recover model, with part 1 looking at React (see FIG).

When organizations use their data-driven HRBPs, especially in a crisis, they can achieve positive crisis management response outcomes.

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FIG: The responsibilities of an HR business partner are when reacting to a crisis (Source: Visier)

IAN COOK – COVID-19 Pandemic: Are You Asking These Critical Workforce Questions?

Picking up the theme from Kevin Moore and Serena Huang, Ian Cook from Visier outlines five important questions companies are (or should) be asking of their workforce data so that they can develop fact-based emergency response plans.

IAN COOK – Key People Metrics to Monitor While Responding to a Crisis (NEW)

Ian Cook outlines the three stages of crisis management: React, Respond and Recover, and then duly focuses on the key people metrics to measure at Stage 2: Respond. According to Ian, these include: i) Which Employees are Essential? ii) How is the situation impacting employee sentiment? iii) How will different scenarios impact our talent needs? iv) How effective are our emergency response measures?


Practical guide from McKinsey on four steps companies can take to build a dynamic and collaborative team structure to help tackle the significant challenges presented by a crisis such as the pandemic (see FIG at climax of four stages). Perhaps another bittersweet aspect of the crisis is that it may spur leaders to reflect on what kind of organisation, culture, and operating model they want to put in place, so they can avoid returning to previous patterns of behaviour and instead embrace a more effective employee-centric way of working as we enter the post-Covid world.

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FIG: Four steps to creating a network of teams (Source: McKinsey)

FRANCISCO MARIN – As workforces struggle to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, Organizational Network Analysis is here to help

Good read from Francisco Marin outlining how ONA can help companies during the pandemic to: 1) accelerate adoption of new strategies, policies and procedures, 2) monitor employee burnout, 3) enhance remote employee onboarding, 4) prevent employee isolation during remote working and 5) understand and predict the virus spread within the organisation.

ALEX ‘SANDY’ PENTLAND – Managing the Flow of Ideas in a Pandemic

Fascinating read from MIT’s Alex Pentland on tools and tactics for maximising effective communication and decision-making while minimising the spread of illness.


LAURA STEVENS – Continuous Listening in times of crisis

As the crisis has developed and employees have started en masse to work remotely, many companies we work with at Insight222 have already initiated efforts to understand how this is affecting their people. Laura’s excellent article outlines how the nature and tone of your Continuous Listening efforts should shift from a focus on engagement to one that seeks to better understand wellbeing – particularly in relation to social connectedness and mental health.

Now is the time to listen and put employee wellbeing at the center of your efforts

ANNA TAVIS – Managing Employee Experience in a Pandemic

Companies that focus on employee experience during the crisis are more likely to recover quicker post Covid-19 according to Dr. Anna Tavis. She cites four principles for successfully managing people through the crisis: Empathy (“Empathy comes first. Make time to listen”), Transparency (“Be transparent on performance goals and outcomes”), Trust (“Gauge when to step in and help and when to get out of the way”) and Communication (“Set up a schedule of communication with your team that is consistent, regular, and inclusive.”)

The focus on EX requires paying attention to all levels of employee needs up and down the Maslow hierarchy. It requires addressing the basic needs for safety and retaining jobs as much as encouraging professional growth through the time of the crisis, whether working from home or in the office.

VISIER – Why Employee Listening Matters More than Ever–and How Data Helps(NEW)

I was delighted to participate in the third Visier Crisis Management Open Forum on 8th April, which was themed around the importance of employee listening and featured a lively panel between Sarah Johnson (Perceptyx), Laura Stevens (Deloitte), Ken Oehler (Kincentric) and Ken Matos (Culture Amp). You can watch the recording here.

Recent data shows that employees appreciate when leaders acknowledge that they don’t know what’s ahead. It’s important to not rush into layoff decisions, but to instead make those decisions based on data, and be clear with employees about what’s happening.

PHILIP ARKCOLL – Measure How Your Organisation is Adapting to WFH

A fascinating analysis of the impact of the sudden shift to remote working from Philip Arkcoll and the team from Worklytics. The findings (see FIG below), which are based on aggregate data leveraged from their customers productivity tools (e.g. Office 365, Slack and G Suite) demonstrates the impact of this massive change on their workforces. It’s insights like these that companies should be using to improve collaboration, minimise burnout and drive a better employee experience during the crisis. A must read.

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FIG: Key metrics tracked by Worklytics before and after the move to WFH (Source: Philip Arkcoll, Worklytics)

JOE CAINEY – How Employee Comments Have Evolved in the Wake of COVID-19| STEPHEN YOUNG – COVID-19: How should we approach employee listening? | MORTEN HARTVIG BERG – Adapt your Covid-19 Surveys to the Stage of the Pandemic | MELISSA BARRY – Pulsing in Times of Distress: Customer Questions | LEEANN RENNINGER – 11 high-impact questions managers should ask remote employees | BENJAMIN GRANGER – Is now the right time to survey your employees? | BRADLEY WILSON – Listening During Turbulent Times

There’s been a flurry of activity from survey providers as the crisis has developed. Listening to your employees shows that you care, so most organisations are seeking to use surveys to understand how employees are feeling, whether they have the tools to work remotely, how they are balancing work with care giving and a multitude of other questions. Collected together here are helpful articles from Peakon, Willis Towers Watson, Ennova, Glint, Culture Amp, Qualtrics and Perceptyx. A number of these vendors have created free survey tools for customers for use during the crisis.

MATTHEW WARREN – How Psychology Researchers Are Responding To The COVID-19 Pandemic

Helpful summary examining the new research psychologists are launching to understand how the present crisis is affecting us, and to inform our response to it. This includes studies monitoring our mental health as well as research exploring messaging and its impact on our behaviours. An illuminating read.


CATHERINE STUPP & KRISTIN BROUGHTON – Companies Walk Fine Line on Employee Data Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

A Wall Street Journal article warning companies that they need to be careful not to breach data protection and employment laws in Europe and the US as they seek to deal with the complexities arising from the coronavirus outbreak.

It’s a global crisis; it’s serious. But it doesn’t necessarily justify a sort of free-for-all approach to data collection

THE ECONOMIST – Countries are using apps and data networks to keep tabs on the pandemic

Ways in which the crisis has prompted many countries to use data and technology to increase surveillance on its citizens.


SIMON BROWN – How Learning Teams can Help in Unprecedented Times

The Chief Learning Officer of Novartis shares some ideas on how learning teams can help in in crisis as well as a few personal thoughts on virtual working, new routines, and valuable resources he has come across.

ALOK KSHIRSAGAR, TAREK MANSOUR, LIZ McNALLY & MARC METAKIS – Adapting workplace learning in the time of coronavirus

Another excellent article by McKinsey on tactics and strategies companies can employ to support virtual workforce learning. This includes advice on creating a learning response team, adapting learning delivery and techniques to set up and deliver virtual sessions (see FIG below).

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FIG: How to create engagement and community in virtual learning sessions (Source: McKinsey)

ANNIE PESHKAM & GIANPIERO PETRIGLIERI – Keep Your People Learning When You Go Virtual (NEW)

“Cultivating a learning culture is not just a catch phrase or a luxury in these times. It is a way to protect your organization and its people.” So, resist the temptation to pause learning and slash training budgets. Instead prioritise learning and adapt it to the challenges of virtual by focusing on the two broad ways in which we learn: cognitive (“We absorb, processes, and use information to complete our tasks” and socio-emotional (“We learn how we — and others — feel and think about the new situation we are in, and how to manage those thoughts and feelings.”).

Learning will be the foundation of our survival for both organizations and the individuals who make them up


GEMMA D’AURIA & AARON DE SMET – Leadership in a crisis: Responding to the coronavirus outbreak and future challenges | MIHIR MYSORE – Responding to coronavirus: The minimum viable nerve center

As the first article from McKinsey explains at the outset, the Coronavirus pandemic is a crisis unlike any other in recent times. Recognising that this is a crisis is the first step leaders must take, and the five leadership practices outlined should act as a guide for the chaotic times ahead – including the Network of Teams in the FIG below. “What leaders need during a crisis is not a predefined response plan but behaviors and mindsets that will prevent them from overreacting to yesterday’s developments and help them look ahead.” The second article (also from McKinsey) takes provides more context on the need to set up an integrated ‘nerve center’ based around five cross-functional teams covering: Customer Engagement, Workforce Protection, Supply Chain Stabilisation, Financials Stress Testing and the Nerve Centre Integration Team.

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FIG: A Network of Teams for a pandemic response (Source: McKinsey)

PETER HINSSEN – The Never Normal – How to thrive as a company in VUCA times

Peter is one of the best keynote speakers I’ve seen and a leading authority on how companies can thrive in disruptive times. In this video, Peter has created an abridged version of his keynote, which has been updated for our current troubled times. Definitely worth 20 minutes of your time.

JOSH BERSIN – CEO: The Chief Empathy Officer

Josh further develops the themes from his The Big Reset article to outline five themes for leaders during the crisis. First and foremost, leaders in a crisis should focus on empathy and compassion first, business second. Josh adds truth (leader “tell us what’s really going on“), competence (“messages without results don’t matter”), listening (“They talk less, listen more“) and trust.

Above all, this Virus is giving us a gift. An important lesson in leadership. We are all connected, and without these five lessons in leadership, we feel adrift.

SANDRA SUCHER & SHALENE GUPTA – Layoffs That Don’t Break Your Company

As reports of layoffs due to the impact of Covid-19 rise by the day, this 2018 essay from Harvard Business School should be required reading for business executives and HR. Whilst focusing on the impact of technological transformation and intensifying competition, the article’s reminder that companies have a responsibility to support the transition of workers should be a mantra for our troubled times. Examples are provided from the likes of Nokia and Michelin. This paragraph in particular resonates: “While companies tend to prioritize short-term financial results over the long-term well-being of their employees, employees are the lifeblood that enables a company to keep delivering the products and services that ultimately generate shareholder benefits.

After a layoff, survivors experienced a 20% decline in job performance

ATTA TARKI, PAUL LEVY & JEFF WEISS – The Coronavirus Crisis Doesn’t Have to Lead to Layoffs

Leaders are obligated to make responsible decisions to keep their companies afloat. But those who manage the economic effects of this crisis in a clear and compassionate way create more value for their companies and will come out of this pandemic stronger than ever before.” The authors urge companies to consider the five measures outlined before announcing deep layoffs including crowdsourcing ideas with employees, showing flexibility by considering unorthodox options and above all acting with compassion.

Leaders can approach this challenging time with flexibility, transparency, and compassion

ROBIN ERICKSON & AMY YE – Human Capital Management during COVID-19: Finding Innovative Alternatives to Layoffs (NEW)

Helpful article collecting together 11 alternative strategies to downsizing including conducting early scenario planning, freezing non-essential hiring, embracing job sharing and getting creative (including crowdsourcing contributions from your employees).

Despite relieving financial burdens temporarily, layoffs affect organizations negatively in many ways, some of which can be profound and lasting

BILL SCHANINGER, BRUCE SIMPSON, HAN ZHANG & CHRIS ZHU – Demonstrating corporate purpose in the time of coronavirus

Companies will define what they do in response to the Covid-19 pandemic – or be defined by it. The magnitude of the crisis means that the purpose of many companies is simply now to survive. How should companies adopt an empathetic approach to steer their way through the crisis? This article from McKinsey provides some clues. Listening and understanding the needs of your stakeholders, involving employees, leading from the front and communicating early and regularly are just some of the steps proposed.

The opportunity for businesses to make an indelible mark with human support, empathy, and purpose is greater than it has ever been.

JASON WINGARD – Do The Right Thing? 3 Companies Showing Exemplary Leadership During The Pandemic

How Amazon, CVS and Target are setting the example for other companies to follow.

TOM DAVENPORT – How to Make Better Decisions About Coronavirus (NEW)

Thoughtful read from Tom Davenport on the biases that are most related to the decisions we all have to make around Covid-19. As Tom highlights, if we better understand our biases we increase our chances of mitigating these biases and ultimately making better decisions. Take the ‘Status Quo’ bias for example: “‘Would I plan this same event/flight/meeting today, given today’s situation?’ In most cases, you’ll realize that adjusting to the new reality — cancelling or modifying your plans — is both the right thing to do and not that hard.

RUCHIKA TULSHYAN – How to Be an Inclusive Leader Through a Crisis (NEW)

“Organizations are much more likely to be innovative in the face of this crisis if they seek input from a diverse group of employees who approach problems from a variety of perspectives.” Helpful guide on how to be an inclusive leader throughout the crisis. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also makes business sense too.

PAUL ARGENTI – Communicating through the Coronavirus crisis

Transparency counts more than ever at a time of crisis, so with a nod to the Business Roundtable pivot I highlighted earlier, this article provides some solid advice on how to tailor communications related to Coronavirus to each of your key stakeholders including your workforce.

The company needs to demystify the situation for employees, put everyone’s mind at ease, and provide hope for the future

BEN WABER – Don’t Let COVID-19 Compromise Your Organizational Health

Ben Waber analyses the impact of Coronavirus on organisational health paying specific attention to how companies should approach its employees working remotely: “When people are remote they tend to interact less with people they don’t already know, creating information silos. To combat this, companies should arrange informal cross-team remote events, like lunches, coffee sessions or other opportunities for team members to connect.”

JEFF LEVIN-SCHERZ & DEANNA ALLEN – 8 Questions Employers Should Ask About Coronavirus

This epidemic is a wake-up call for companies to carefully review the strategies, policies and procedures they have in place to protect employees and operations in this and future epidemics. Here are eight questions that companies should ask as they respond to the spread of the virus.

McKINSEY – COVID-19: Implications for business (NEW)

McKinsey provides business leaders with a perspective on the evolving situation with Coronavirus and the implications for their companies. The article is updated every week as the crisis continues to unfurl, so if you are running or leading a business this is one to bookmark. Accompanying the summary is a full PDF deck of 60-70 slides based around the Resolve-Resilience-Return-Reimagination-Reform messaging on which much of McKinsey’s content on the crisis revolves (see below). This includes the FIG that follows, which looks at the ‘next normal’ for organisational configuration.

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FIG: Organisations: The next normal (Source: McKinsey)

MARTIN REEVES, NIKOLAUS LANG & PHILIPP CARLSSON-SZLEZAK – Lead Your Business Through the Coronavirus Crisis

BCG penned article distilling 12 lessons (see FIG below) for businesses to respond to unfolding events related to Coronavirus, communicating, and extracting and applying learnings. As with McKinsey, BCG also has a glossy, informative and must-read PDF deck on insights perspectives from the crisis – see here.

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FIG: 12 ways leaders can address COVID-19 (Source: BCG)


Another BCG penned article, which provides insights from support the company has been providing to Chinese companies due to Coronavirus. Many of the lessons learned could help companies in other parts of the world now confronting this terrible pandemic.


JUSTIN HALE & JOSEPH GRENNY – How to Get People to Actually Participate in Virtual Meetings

In all this uncertainty one surefire bet is that we’ll all be participating in more virtual meetings for the foreseeable future. This article outlines five rules that lead to “predictably better meeting outcomes.” Getting participation is the key, which means fewer slides and more tasks that people can actively engage in: “If you’re on a virtual meeting platform that allows for breakout groups, use them liberally. Never go longer than 5 minutes without giving the group another problem to solve.

BOB FRISCH & CARY GREENE – What It Takes to Run a Great Virtual Meeting

Twelve steps to running a great virtual meeting including using video, preparing icebreakers and incorporating real-time feedback.

ANDY MOLINSKY – Virtual Meetings Don’t Have to Be a Bore

Four tips for embracing the differences and making the most of a format you might not yet be comfortable with.


LYNDA GRATTON & STEFAN STERN – Working virtually? You’re not alone

As Lynda Gratton says in this London Business School penned resource, “This is an enormous opportunity to experiment with the way we work.” The article and accompanying video describes the three central elements to remote working: the technology, the social aspects and the work itself as well as providing six steps for leaders to make remote working a success for you and your organisation. Watch the video below.

DANIEL ZHAO – Work From Home: Has The Future of Work Arrived?

Some excellent research analysing the current state of work from home benefits using a unique dataset of hundreds of thousands of benefit reviews on Glassdoor. Thanks to Andrew Marritt for highlighting.

BRUCE DAISLEY – How to overcome the pitfalls of working from home

Insightful article from one of my recent guests on the Digital HR Leaders Podcast (listen here as Bruce talks about the importance of laughter to resilience) on how to work from home effectively: “Evidence suggests that remote teams work best when locked into a co-ordinated plan. Teams should agree what blocks of time they intend to be engaged in rapid email/chat/Slack chatter – and what times are dedicated to deeper (quiet) work. Why? Well, remote teams seem to work better when they are “bursty” (going from periods of solo working to bursts of engaged discussion with fast-response times).”

ERICA DHAWAN & TOMAS CHAMORRO-PREMUZIC – How to Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote

Remote working is going to be the ‘new normal’ in the coming months, which as this article explains requires different collaboration skills. The authors outline that where remote teams communicate well and leverage their strengths, they can actually gain an advantage over co-located teams before providing five best practices to facilitate this.

LINDSAY McGREGOR & NEEL DOSHI – How to Keep Your Team Motivated, Remotely (NEW)

Though academic research on remote productivity is mixed, with some finding it declines and others promise it increases, this study of 20,000 workers around the world suggests that success (or otherwise) will depend on how you do it. The advice here suggests empowering your teams to solve the problems that really matter is a good predictor of success.

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SOURCE: Harvard Business Review

SABINA NAWAZ – How Managers Can Support Remote Employees

Managing a remote team can be challenging so this article outlining six strategies for managers to augment availability when their team is working remotely should be helpful. “While the swift shift to remote work can cause stress and many complications to daily activities, your job as a manager is to remove as many barriers to forward momentum as possible. By communicating a clear availability plan, you can help your team members feel better connected to you and address any concerns or questions as they arise.”

KURTIS MORRISON – A Manager’s Guide to Mental Health During the COVID-19 Crisis (NEW)

Comprehensive guide from the Bunch team assembling some of the common emotions people feel as a result of the pandemic and steps managers can take to address them.

DAVE ULRICH & JULIO ZELAYA – Insights for Making Working at Home Work!

As Dave Ulrich notes: “From this pandemic, new realities that reinvent where and how work is done are a dominant reality for nearly every organization.” So this guide from Dave and Julio Zelaya on how business and HR leaders can manage this new reality of working from home is an invaluable resource.

ANITA LETTINK – How to make the remote working experiment a success | MATT OROZCO – Remote Working Tips From a Remote Employee

Anita Lettink and Matt Orozco have both spent a significant proportion of their careers working remotely, and here each shares some tips on how to be successful in what has rapidly become a global experiment. Good advice here for workers, managers and companies alike.

VERONICA GILRANE – Working together when we’re not together

This article documents the findings of a study by Google’s People Analytics team to understand the impact of distributed work on teams in areas such as well-being, performance and connectedness, before providing some recommendations to keep those things consistent.

FACEBOOK – Working Remotely: How We Make It Work

Facebook has made available its internal remote work toolkits, which should be helpful for those in the community who have had to make a fast pivot to remote work. Thanks to Alexis Fink for highlighting.

SAMANTHA McLAREN & MATT MULLENWEG – A Longtime Remote Company Shares the Roadmap for Successful WFH (NEW)

Automattic, the creators of, is a fully remote organisation with staff in 75 countries across the globe. In this article, CEO Matt Mullenweg shares the four stages that companies and their employees need to go through to become a successful remote team. Stage three seems critical as this involves empowering employees to design their own days in order to improve their productivity.

DOROTHY DALTON – WFH Post COVID19 is about intention. Be careful what you wish for (NEW)

With a recent study on companies from Gartner finding “nearly a quarter of respondents said they will move at least 20% of their on-site employees to permanent remote positions” as part of cost cutting programs, should we be concerned when working from home becomes a requirement. As Dorothy writes here, the repercussions could be massive and cut into every element of our lives from job search and career decisions, to workforce planning and structure, diversity and to the choice of the place we live.

LIZ FOSSLIEN & MOLLIE WEST DUFFY – Managing Stress and Emotions When Working Remotely (NEW)

Feeling isolated is common when working from home, so this collection of eight tips from two of Humu’s People Science team to help alleviate the challenges of remote work coupled with managing stress and difficult emotions caused by the pandemic is a helpful resource.


A lot of thoughtful pieces have already emerged on how the virus will shake up the world order. These should be read along with Josh Bersin’s ‘The Great Reset’ article highlighted earlier.

HEATHER McGOWAN – How The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Accelerating The Future Of Work

In this piece Heather McGowan writes how the crisis is accelerating the future of work (see FIG 6): “If the future of work requires restructured workplaces, redefined roles, rapid learning, and reserves of trust—and it does, organizations are being challenged to do all that and more as they address the coronavirus pandemic.” Heather’s argument is powerful and her recommendations of reconfiguring work and leadership around people and emphasising culture as the north star really resonate.

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FIG 6: Source: Heather McGowan

DAVE ULRICH – What’s Next In The Post-Coronavirus World? Five Principles in Progress (NEW)

Dave Ulrich continues his excellent analysis of the crisis by outlining five general principles in progress that may follow the pandemic. Dave hesitates to call this a ‘new normal’ as he rightly reflects that the current situation is frankly anything but normal. Instead, the five principles presented (including increasing personalisation, navigating paradox and tolerating uncertainty) seem to be the basis for a better future.

Post-coronavirus crisis, decisions should increasingly be made with rigorous analytics using digital technology


The Black Death is believed to have ended feudalism. World War II precipitated a rise of women in the workforce. SARS led to a boom in online retail in China. In this BCG analysis, the authors examine the attitudinal shifts that may arise in the post-Covid era including (see FIG) the potential implication of people spending more time at home. The article concludes by outlining eight steps companies can take to sense, exploit, and shape the post-COVID-19 reality.

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FIG: Potential implications of spending more time at home (Source: BCG)


A feature of the crisis at least in our HR community is the scale of collaboration, shared learning and compassion. This crowdsourced effort from William Tincup is a prime example featuring 25 questions we might want to ask ourselves as the current storm passes. Examples include: i) Was HR part of your business continuity planning preparation? If not, will HR be a part of your future business continuity planning process? (Leaders), ii) How did you maximize the value of your workforce during COVID-19? (HR), iii) Do you feel like you had the right people data and at the right time to make people-related business decisions? (HR/Leaders).

ALEC LEVENSON – A long time until the Economic New Normal (NEW)

According to Alec Levenson, writing in the MIT Sloan Management Review, “the New Economic Normal is a lot farther away than people realise.” Alec goes on to explain that “there is a lot of economic disruption that will extend well beyond the time when the health care crisis has subsided.”

The corporate leaders who recognize these new challenges now and move quickly to adapt to them will put their companies in the best position to thrive throughout the 2020s.

JOE PINKSER – The Four Possible Timelines for Life Returning to Normal

Writing in the Atlantic, Joe Pinkser attempts to answer the question on many of our minds: When will things return to ‘normal’? He outlines four possible timelines ranging from 1-2 months to (heaven forbid) 12-18 months (or longer).

KEVIN SNEADER & SHUBHAM SINGHAL – Beyond coronavirus: The path to the next normal

“The coronavirus is not only a health crisis of immense proportion—it’s also an imminent restructuring of the global economic order.” This McKinsey penned article offers ideas on how leaders can navigate what’s next. This is themed around five stages (see FIG 7), “leading from the crisis of today to the next normal that will emerge after the battle against coronavirus has been won: Resolve, Resilience, Return, Reimagination, and Reform.

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FIG 7: The Path to the ‘next normal’ – five horizons (Source: McKinsey)

ANDREW WINSTON – Is the COVID-19 Outbreak a Black Swan or the New Normal?

“While we continue to grasp the scale of this pandemic, the new challenges we face point to more permanent changes we must make in our lives and how we do business.” A fascinating read where Andrew Winston highlights a number of big picture thoughts as well as some thoughts for companies including: When in doubt, we should put people first as well as “We may discover something useful about how we interact and travel.

When in doubt, companies should put people first

DINA GERDEMAN – How the Coronavirus Is Already Rewriting the Future of Business

Experts from Harvard Business School offer ideas on how the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to change business practice.

POLITICO – Coronavirus Will Change the World Permanently. Here’s How

34 curious thinkers consider how COVID-19 might alter society in dramatic ways including our concept of community, the global economy, technology, health, government and lifestyle. Thanks to Kirsten Levermore for spotting this gem.


There’s so much information available on Coronavirus. Unfortunately, most of the coverage (particularly from the mainstream media) is either unhelpful, biased, sensationalised or designed to scare the reader (if they weren’t already scared enough). Thankfully, there are some reliable sources that are providing regular updates. These are just a few I have found:

I’ve always found music uplifting particularly in difficult times, so I’ll leave the final words to the Foo Fighters and the brilliant Manchester band James.

First, Dave Grohl and the boys:

It’s times like these you learn to live again

It’s times like these you give and give again

It’s times like these you learn to love again

It’s times like these time and time again

…and finally James:

Understand the world we’re living in.

Love can change anything

Stay healthy everyone.

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