HR professionals: your organisation needs you now more than ever.

Lizzie Buxton

Written By Yvonne Wilcock, Managing Director

17th September 2020

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When the UK went into lockdown on Monday 23 March 2020, it heralded not just a nationwide attempt to control the spread of COVID-19.  It signalled a fundamental change in how we view the workplace.

As a profession, we’ve spent many years debating the merits or otherwise of flexible working, home working and collaborative technologies.  We’ve agonised over VUCA and the concept of agile working methodologies.

But let’s be honest, progress had been limited.

Then suddenly, overnight, those concepts became a reality for many British organisations and their people.

And, it turned out to be not as scary or unworkable as some had feared. So much so that many organisations have told their people not to return to the office in the short term.  Others are contemplating a hybrid model of home and office-based working for the longer term.

It’s time for HR to stand up, be counted and take a lead. 

This is a golden opportunity for HR professionals to take a lead in helping their organisations and their people adapt, recover and thrive in the new work environment.

But we need to do so with agility, decisiveness and confidence, focusing on four main areas:

  1. Empowering, supporting and upskilling managers
  2. Focusing on making the work experience for remote workers more “human”
  3. Embracing technology to drive efficiency, consistency and visibility
  4. Reshaping roles and expectations to reflect the new way of working.

Managers really are on the frontline now. 

It’s important that we recognise the role managers have to play in engaging, motivating and supporting their remote and on-premises teams.  During lockdown, many were forced to adapt rapidly to their new managerial challenges.  Now it’s important that we help them reshape their soft skills such as empathy, compassion and flexibility to continue to manage effectively.  It’s also important that we empower them to take control of ER issues with confidence.

Let’s not lose sight of wellbeing. 

Rather aptly, Mental Health Awareness Week took place during lockdown in May 2020. While many people seem to have adapted well to a change in working environments, we have to remember that there are 7m single person households in the UK.  For some, working from home can mean crippling social isolation. Now, more than ever, wellbeing needs to be at the very centre of the employee experience.  Put simply, we need to pay even more attention to the need for human-to-human interaction.

Exploit technology to free up valuable HR resources. 

The right technology can help empower, inform and support your managers as they deal with ER issues in the new environment.  In addition, its important to acknowledge the importance of data analytics in identifying trends and in helping you spot issues before they become problems.

Our expectations of people and performance need to change. 

As a profession, we’ve long argued that home or remote working really shouldn’t impact productivity.  Now that a large number of workers are likely to spend at least part of their time working at home, we need to adapt how we measure performance, attendance and productivity to reflect this. By focusing on output rather than the where, and the when, we have the opportunity to engage a more diverse workforce and to widen our talent acquisition strategy.

During lockdown, employers reacted quickly and decisively, building high levels of trust and reassurance with their people. The challenge now is to build on that and build a positive culture in an entirely new working environment.

If you’d like more information on the issues HR needs to focus on, download our Executive Briefing “The workplace revolution” here.

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