COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon a situation that no one would have imagined. Human resources managers are amongst those who have been through a lot in these 6-7 months. Like everyone else, they never knew that they would have to face anything of this order and were unprepared. However, unlike most others, HR professionals shoulder the burden of the entire organization. So the pandemic has not been kind but HR teams across the globe have stood firm in the face of adversity and have very astutely performed their duties related to workforce management. In hindsight, the situation could have been a lot worse for a lot of employees across the globe if HR teams had thrown in the towel just like so many people. But they stuck to their guns and helped business leaders in crisis management.
More than anything else, this pandemic has brought uncertainty in just about everything associated with life in addition to life itself. Economies have been crushed – even the super powers haven’t been spared. Availability of jobs is at a premium, businesses are being shut, and employees are in stress. But amidst all this mayhem, human resources managers have managed to keep everything aligned and in perspective. However, fulfilling your human resources responsibilities when the entire world is looking to safeguard their personal interests hasn’t been easy and comes at a price. HR professionals have put their professional lives over their personal interests to ensure that employees are kept engaged and motivated, provided the right communication tools for remote work, and not dealt with unnecessary financial blows in this dire situation. Appreciation is a very small reward for what they have done. And it is the least that business leaders and the working community as a whole can do for them for their selfless work during the pandemic.
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Biggest challenges human resources managers had to face during the pandemic
- Managing remote work: One of the toughest HR manager duties has been to manage remote work for employees. Not that they haven’t done that before. But this time around, it was for the entire staff and for an indefinite period. The stakes were higher and so the preparations had to be immaculate. The job wasn’t as seamless as business leaders would have wanted at the start but it got better with time. There are still problems that are being discovered but HR managers now have strategies that they can use to overcome them. Initially, there was too much emphasis on productivity of remote working employees. Fortunately, it has now shifted to providing employees with immediate response and solution to their problems. HR managers now know that if they provide remote workers with the right tools and updates and help them deal with problems by offering the required support, they will not have to worry too much about productivity.
- Mental health and wellbeing: If the stress of having to deal with an illness that’s unheard of and doesn’t have a treatment or vaccine wasn’t enough, people had the uncertainty surrounding their jobs and their financial security. Plus the pressure of having to shift to a new way of working took a heavy toll on the employees’ mental health and wellbeing. This is amongst the top HR challenges during the pandemic. Launching wellness programs and offering flexibility, security, and health benefits have always been a part of human capital management. But the mental stress that employees have been put through in the first half of this year has been more than what these programs can help them deal with. This is where HR teams have worked day in and day out to come out with programs and strategies that can help remote employees overcome the mental stress. A lot of these programs have managed to make the desired impact but only a more widespread implementation would provide the true picture of their effectiveness.
- Employee engagement and communication: Providing employees with the right communication channels to help them communicate with colleagues, managers, and HR has also been a major challenge during the pandemic. Communication is a critical aspect of every business and something that shouldn’t be taken lightly, more so when employees are working remotely. The likes of Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other communication tools have helped HR teams to manage this aspect quite well. Not only have these tools helped employees to be more productive and at the same time, more reachable to everyone else in the team, but also engaged and connected. They have provided HR teams across the world with a way to keep everyone on the same page and follow a systematic workflow. Cross-functional teams that are working remotely need regular meetings or sessions to perform better. These tools have been a blessing in disguise for business leaders and human resources managers.
It has been a tough few months for businesses worldwide. Some have surrendered to the effects of the pandemic while others have built resilience. Those that have navigated through the challenges have very efficient HR teams that have worked in tandem with the leadership to come up with ways that have helped these businesses survive the disruption. Whether it is reskilling or upskilling staff, reconfiguring workflows, or redeploying resources, HR managers have been at the forefront of everything that businesses have done to stay relevant during the pandemic.
Role HR managers are expected to play post COVID
HR managers have been instrumental in everything they have done to ensure business continuity in these testing times. They will have to continue to be the source of support that leaders can rely on when the going gets tough. Also, they will have to come up with human capital metrics that take into account the changes that the business world will undergo until normalcy resumes and are in line with business objectives.
- “Dear HR: Insights from Business Leaders During COVID-19” by Brett on June 12 2020
- “Biggest Challenges of HR Professionals in COVID-19 Pandemic” by Braja Deepan Roy on 17 June 2020
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