Strategy | What has HR learned from the last month?

What has HR learned from the last month?

It’s certainly been a rollercoaster number of weeks since the start of the lockdown in the UK. One of the big advantages of the major disruption we are currently living through is that it can turn a spotlight on key areas of the business, its habits, routines and its people – and ultimately reveal truths that were always there, just not that visible.

So, what questions could HR be asking and what have we learned so far?

How committed are we to remote working?

What was your company view on remote working before the current crisis – was it actively supported and encouraged or were there lots of reasons to put staff off the idea? And has that viewpoint changed in the last several weeks? The majority of businesses have seen both positives and negatives regarding remote working, however a great many have struggled. Having the right technology, connections, hardware and software is only part of the equation. Operational processes, management style and structures, attitudes and behaviours can either help or hinder when so many are forced to turn their entire working routine on its head. For the companies that already supported flexible working for some staff prior to the pandemic, the shift to widespread enforced remote working was much easier because they already had a clear understanding of what was needed in practical terms, plus a genuine appreciation of the advantages. A positive view of flexible working, as well as having a cloud-based infrastructure, certainly eased the way forward.

Are our company culture and value statements fact or fiction?

Now that the pressure is on, has the response from your business and your people been in line with previously accepted company culture and value statements?  Or have you been surprised by what’s changed in difficult circumstances versus the ideas and beliefs held previously? Some businesses will have found that their value statements simply haven’t held true. Others will have discovered that they are actually far more adaptable, better at teamwork, skilled at creative problem-solving and customer care etc. HR is well placed to review how people are currently behaving across the business and see if that is aligned with how the leaders and marketers describe the culture and DNA.

Have we done enough on mental health?

What was your business approach to employee health and wellbeing before the current crisis? How fit for purpose is your employee support program now? Do more options need to be added such as counselling or financial wellbeing support? Many HR teams will be under a lot of pressure as the first port of call for employees who are understandably stressed. Worries about finances, dealing with isolation, battling with productivity targets, the need for flexibility when juggling family commitments: right now, the support offered for employees who are struggling is crucial. Once the current crisis is over, every employee will look back and have a view on how well (or not) their employer dealt with this situation and that will undeniably impact loyalty in the longer term.

Who are our future leaders?

One thing this crisis has made clear is the importance of being able to cope even if key people are absent. When the pressure is on, some employees will naturally adapt and step up, often showing skills and leadership that hadn’t previously been apparent. HR should actively look out for these talented individuals and identify who displays the traits the business needs for ongoing success. These are the individuals who should be included in a structured leadership development programme as they may well be the ones whose contribution now, and in future months, will tip the balance in favour of commercial success.

Visit Access People Solutions for more practical HR support through uncertainty and beyond.

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