Responding to Covid-19: 7 Important HR Lessons

HR leaders who have been on the frontlines during the ongoing crisis have learned a multitude of lessons while responding to COVID-19 that will stay with them for a lifetime.

HR professionals have played a seemingly invisible but extremely important role in keeping the world of business in order over the last few months.

From managing a sudden shift to remote work to applicant background checks & drug screening, employee management, communication, and counseling, HR had to multitask with limited resources during the pandemic.

Here in this post, we will shed light on seven important lessons that HR professionals around the world have learned during the ongoing pandemic.  

1. Remote Work IS A Big Deal

Until the pandemic caught us unaware, the vast majority of businesses had never thought of having some of their employees working remotely.

Except businesses that primarily operated through computers, mobile apps, Internet, and cloud services, hardly any business organization had HR policies on remote work.  

Most businesses that were not completely shut during forced lockdowns or could ensure business continuity with a remote workforce quickly adapted their HR policies for the remote work era.

Many HR departments had little or no experience in how to onboard or manage remote workers.

Even as many organizations get their workers back to worksites to ramp up business, the writing on the wall for business and HR leaders today is that the ‘remote work’ situation will continue.

In the post-corona world, industry sectors that had never had any remote workers until recently will possibly continue this practice.

A partial or completely remote workforce can benefit a business organization in many ways; remote work involves fewer time and cost-overheads; modern-day communication & collaboration tools ensure in-person meetings aren’t always necessary. 

2. Having a Business Continuity Plan Is a Must

A business continuity plan outlines the steps an organization can take to remain in shape during and after a crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown millions of businesses out of gear, all at once.

It’s unprecedented, yes.

But, even when the world moves past this crisis, there is no guarantee that your organization will not find itself in the middle of a storm again.

A new crisis may hit just one company, one region, or one industry sector.

The pandemic has in fact made business and HR leaders realize the importance of having a business continuity plan.

3. When in Crisis, Empower Your Team

There are occasions when you can’t possibly have all the answers.

On such occasions, experienced HR leaders choose to listen and empower their teams.

Yes, there will be an irresistible urge to micro-manage everything when everyone from a janitor to the CEO is staring at an uncertain future.

The pandemic is a reminder that when a crisis is around the corner, HR leaders shouldn’t try to micro-manage anything.

It doesn’t help.

4. Employee Wellbeing Is Paramount

There is overwhelming agreement among HR leaders that human resources and their health and safety should be priority number one for any organization.

Organizations that continue to look after the wellbeing of their employees during the current crisis will be remembered for their actions by their workers for a long time to come.

Your organization can support employees by offering mental health support, financial counseling, and increased health coverage during COVID-19.

5. Acquire New Talent When New Nobody Is Hiring

While most businesses, small and large, resorted to layoffs and furloughs to stay afloat during the economic downturn, some business organizations were keen to use this opportunity to fill key roles.

Some sectors such as manufacturing, food delivery, healthcare, eCommerce, etc. have also experienced increased demand for talent during the pandemic.

Yes, nobody knows when and how exactly the crisis will end. For employers and HR managers, it is difficult to even consider hiring more people until they see light at the end of the tunnel.

After all, during a crisis situation, even managing and retaining existing key-performers in your company can be a challenge.

But, if talent acquisition is feasible, now is a great time to scout for new talent.

Your existing workforce will also perceive the company’s move to induct new professionals as a sign of strength.

6. Authentic Communication Is Necessary for Crisis Management

In crisis management, there is no substitute for ‘authentic and impactful communication.’

During the pandemic, HR professionals and business leaders seldom had any good news to share with employees.

How can you sound authentic when you have just decided to lay off some people because the company simply doesn’t have the means to pay them?

How can your communication be impactful when you are wading through the storm and need some people to get off the boat?

Yes, it is difficult.

Unprecedented lay-offs, furloughs, salary-cuts, hiring-freezes, etc. have all been communicated by HR professionals around the world.

The pandemic has taught HR professionals the need to be empathetic, authentic, and impactful in their communications.

7. Move With Pace

Many businesses have seen ideas move from the whiteboard to the implementation stage really quickly during the crisis.

Earlier, for instance, no one could have imagined if it was possible to complete a companywide rollout of Microsoft Teams and other cloud services within a two-week timeframe.

Many companies came up with new ideas for products and services during the pandemic and implemented them immediately. They didn’t wait for the perfect answers or plan for the perfect launch opportunity.

From senior management executives to HR managers, everyone has learned, to some degree, how to challenge ‘assumptions.’ 

Author Bio:

Leon Reingold: Editor-in-Chief at Drugtestsinbulk.com, a nationwide supplier of drug and alcohol testing products online. 

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