COVID-19: People analytics for a People-first strategy
Interview with Dr Fermin Diez

Bridging the way forward

COVID-19: Insights for Leaders - #SGunited #SEAunited

Professor Fermin Diez

Professor Fermin Diez  is Deputy CEO and Group Director, Human Capital and Organisational Development at the National Council for Social Service. 

How bad do you think the COVID-19 situation will be for businesses?


  • Even though Singapore may feel safe for many Singaporeans, we operate in a country with a strong reliance on an open economy. The COVID-19 situation in other countries is very different to ours - and as such we need to be wary of international developments, says Professor Diez. 

  • Businesses in Singapore are adopting measures such as split teams, which Professor Diez is explains is important, but another pressing issue that needs to addressed is managing key business objectives through your people strategy.

How else can leaders use people analytics to augment their people strategies?


  • Analytics can aid in many ways - but instant communication is where Professor Diez sees the greatest value of people analytics. Pulse surveys come to mind immediately, with their ability to take advantage of our digital world and provide more frequent data points to make decisions based on. 

  • Comparing pulse surveys to surveys meant for market research - Professor Diez explains that employees will remember how their organisations behave in this period. Any indication that their organisation does not value their employee's sentiment, especially in such a sensitive time will be a red flag.
  • The only way to avoid an "exodus" of talent once the circuit-breaking measures are lifted is to focus on the employee experience of adjusting to remote work, and developing measures to keep engaging them through this period.

How do we manage difficult conversations about compensation?


  • Take a People First strategy. Many companies are expected to struggle in this period - and may have to make the difficult decision to cut their headcount or the salaries of their employees. But which decision is the right one?|

  • Understanding what preferences your employees have with regard to such policy changes is vital for retaining their trust in the company.

    If the economic situation leaves your management with no easy choices - one way to keep employees engaged is to simply ask them on what policies they are willing to adapt to.

  • Professor Diez elaborates that asking such hard questions demonstrates leadership in responding to your employee's sentiments, and augments your company culture. Cutting salary before cutting people is almost always the right choice,  but key sectors of the economy that rely on commission-based compensation will lose out in many ways. Paying careful attention to whether cutting salary allows your employees to meet their daily needs is vital, as you may otherwise be leaving these individuals in a difficult position.

    Watch the full video for Professor Diez's full analysis on compensation strategies.


How else can leaders deploy instant communication as a strategy?


  • Beyond developing a gauge of how leaders should respond in such a crisis, pulse surveys can be a tool to check in with the emotional well-being of employees. In such a sensitive situation, having confidence that your employees do believe in your management's ability to lead during this crisis is extremely valuable.

  • Allow the space for your employees to give your management feedback on whether they are able to perform within this period. Be it through lack of office equipment to difficult situations at home - tools for instant feedback tools are incredibly useful.


What happens if the COVID-19 situation lasts for a much longer period than expected?


  • Professor Diez explains that one debate that has continued for years - which is to allow employees to work from home, wherever possible - will end. A world where we have to adapt to remote working for a period as long as three years will be a world that cannot adhere to the conventions of today. 

  • People can demonstrate that they can be productive working from home, as they are now. Having requirements on employees to clock in and out at a physical office will not be easily tolerated, especially if much of the world has adapted to this reality. Even when our world recovers from this situation - our workplaces have to place digital experiences at the forefront for their employees. Remote work policies will be almost necessary.

  • Leaders should also not lock themselves into decisions. Scenario planning is one aspect of business continuity planning, where you build several different responses based on your best case and worst case scenarios. Politicians may lead us to believe that the COVID-19 crisis may end in a matter of weeks, says Professor Diez, but organisations have to be resilient and develop their plans in case things don't go as planned. Having sufficient plans can lead to a much faster and strong economic recovery.

  • Professor Diez also adds - consider pivoting your business.  If living in a world where everyone has to consistently adopt distancing measures to prevent healthcare systems from collapsing - many businesses can no longer exist. Professor Diez gives the example of movie theatres and cruise ships, i.e. businesses that are reliant on a community of people to jointly engage in an experience. The reality is, communities will have to be distributed and remote - and this is entirely possible with technology we currently have available. 



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Additional Resources: 



Business Continuity Plan

While a BCP is focused on bringing operational processes set in place, a People Continuity Plan  focuses on developing an environment that is supportive of your employee's emotional health, as well as developing procedures to manage critical business functions from 

Here are some resources for building psychological resilience for your teams, developing your people strategy and introducing succession planning for your teams.

Read our resources about PCP

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