HR needs to expand its role for coronavirus recovery, finds report

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​HR teams must broaden their expertise and work directly with other functional areas of business as organisations recover from the impact of coronavirus, according to a new report from the Josh Bersin Academy.

The academy spoke with 150 HR leaders as part of its Big Reset working groups to explore the key challenges facing HR and leaders across the globe.

It found many HR teams had expanded their scope of responsibility and in some cases moved into completely new roles.

HR professionals are now having to learn more about workplace safety, public health and facilities design while dealing with issues such as employee commutes, restroom and cafeteria policies.

The report said that every industry is in the middle of a business transformation, with customers wanting to do business differently through “low-touch” interactions with companies products and services.

Employees and their roles are also changing to include safer ways to commute to work, what to wear and protocols around using toilets and shared space.

HR leaders therefore need to create a new support structure for employees at all levels including frequent communications, surveys and feedback, the report said.

Yet the working groups did report plenty of examples of organisations developing programs to directly support workers and their families.

Chubb and Autodesk used internal Slack channels to create family and friend caretaking tools, tutoring aid and cooking classes while Nokia identified employees who were likely home alone so they could receive special attention.

Josh Bersin, independent consultant and dean of the Josh Bersin Academy, said there were new priorities for HR including real-time communication, agile problem solving and the creation of a multi-functional HR structure.

He said: “When we started this work, we saw that HR organisations were grappling with issues around new ways of working, changing financial priorities, and a deeper focus on trust and employee wellbeing. HR professionals were also taking on new roles and responsibilities to support their companies and workforces in new ways.”

HR leaders have been looking at ways to make work easier while remaining productive, for example developing training and support programs to teach people how to run meetings, manage remotely, and stay focused in a world of never-ending interruptions.

Many companies set aside “no-meeting times” to avoid burnout caused by video conferencing.

The report concluded that HR’s focus over the coming months will include new financial priorities and budgets, a more empathetic role for leadership and a renewed and deeper focus on trust.

Many employers within the working groups said they were raising pay, increasing benefits, improving sick pay, expanding leave policies and generally helping employees with their financial wellbeing.

This is in contrast to the reports of pay freezes, redundancies and pay cuts.

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