How HR leaders have responded to coronavirus

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The coronavirus pandemic has meant HR leaders have had to step up to the challenging job of ensuring their company’s people are cared for.

A lockdown of the UK was announced by the prime minister on 23 March, and has lad to the majority of employees working remotely. So what have HRD’s been doing to safeguard their staff and how have their day-to-day lives changed?

Penny Aspden, group organisational development director, Torus

“The OD team at Torus has previously invested time and effort in building the team, working in a more agile way and ensuring that people are used to working across our disciplines of OD operations, OD business partnering and talent development.

“This has meant that whilst the coronavirus pandemic has caused a great deal of disruption to our business, the team are better equipped to respond than we might have been. As we are now all largely working remotely, we have been in constant contact with business areas, each other and importantly with the team that is coordinating our organisational response to the situation.

We are providing a range of data, support and practical guidance to colleagues across the Torus Group, as well as developing emergency procedures that are designed to enable colleague’s function with maximum ease at this time.

“Where possible we have kept focus on business as usual, shifting priorities accordingly to accommodate requirements as the current situation unfolds. Virtual meetings, updates and briefings have formed the backbone of our new daily routine. Importantly though we are still finding time to keep in touch socially within the team to keep the situation as normal as possible.”


Jennifer Lawrence, HRD, Costcutter supermarket

“As an HRD of a food retailer, I feel a huge sense of responsibility in helping to keep the nation fed. Shortly after 5pm on Monday 16 March, we made the decision to get all of our support office and field colleagues set up and working from home.

“Since that point, it’s all been a whirlwind of back-to-back team meetings to preempt and respond to the moving position.

Keeping our colleagues well communicated with and ensuring we put their health and well being at the heart of everything we do is front and centre of all conversations! It’s in times like this that I am thankful for the trust, respect and empathy we have created amongst our organisation.

The focus of the people team has been ensuring we have continuity of store resource in order to fulfill our mission of keeping the nation fed, updating our policies, communicating to our colleagues and providing support, advice and guidance in support of their health and well being.

It is times like this that great leaders rise to provide the direction, care and support so desperately needed.”


Roopa Vyas-Smith, HR Manager, Gingerbread

“For me, what matters most during this coronavirus pandemic is our people and embracing our commitment towards them like never before in the new reality we face. Any immediate HR priorities at Gingerbread have shifted to ensure that staff have everything they need from us. We know what challenges they might be experiencing working from home and figuring out how we can best support physical and mental health during these times.

“After ensuring our workers are cared for, we’re planning to work on how we can build a remote, healthy workplace culture to best keep that human contact alive. HR’s forte is to offer guidance and maybe lead organisations to think laterally, flexibly and with compassion. More than that, HR often becomes the voice of calm and reason when there is uncertainty and fear.

What is this social contact now going to look like? We’ll ask our staff, try things out, see what works and do it as swiftly as we can.

“Productivity may of course dip in the short term but what’s crucial right now is keeping our colleagues together, supporting them where we can and showing kindness and understanding with our staff around their personal and professional commitments.

I’ve committed to contact each of our 30 staff every week just to touch base. People may forget what you do and say but never how you make them feel.”

This piece appeared in the April 2020 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.

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