Coronavirus response gives opportunity for HR to become heroes

Coronavirus has allowed HR to step up and become ‘heroes’ of an organisation, according to global research analyst Josh Bersin.

Bersin argued this was because companies have learned to think about an individual's needs in a ‘human way’ rather than paying lip service, with HR leading the new development.

Speaking to HR magazine, Bersin said COVID-19 was proof that HR was changing its function.

According to research from the Josh Bersin Academy’s HR Pulse Survey, more than 70% of companies said they were readjusting their HR priorities to check in with employees on a regular basis, provide tools and training for remote work and help employees manage stress and mental health.

Companies were also offering people more flexible hours and educational support for their children.

Bersin said: “HR organisation’s response has fallen into four important areas: physical health and wellbeing, remote work, issues related to jobs and work continuity and an urgent need for mental health, resilience, support and dealing with uncertainty.

“The main tip is to flex your ideas and realise that a lot of the things we were doing before the pandemic may not be as important as they were. It’s a very tight labour market, so we will see lots of reskilling and new forms of talent and mobility moving forward.”

Bersin said before the crisis hit, fewer than 50% of companies even had a remote work programme, yet now huge corporate firms including Bank of America and Goldman Sachs are rushing to build remote working strategies.

He has also witnessed a more collaborative HR community as leaders focus their attention on best practice.

Bersin added: “The employee experience issue is now connected, and everything you do will have impact. We have seen people in our online education forums helping each other like never before. The HR profession is getting stitched together in a great way. Despite so much uncertainty, there’s a lot of sharing going on.

“It’s an enormous education opportunity for the HR profession. Understanding public health, workplace dynamics, digital tools, everyone is getting a huge education in HR. We’ve come out of this with some new discipline in HR including response to crisis and upskilling as an opportunity."

Yet many have suffered from the disruptions caused by coronavirus, which Bersin argued had impacted managers and young people in the workplace most.

He added: “Young people don’t always live with family and may have to deal with other housemates, and managers now have to do everything they did before plus check in and schedule virtual meetings to deal with everyone.

“There is a lot of exhaustion and fatigue. People haven’t had a vacation or travelled and those who have jobs are working more hours. Everyone wants to get back to work but there’s only so much work people can do.”

Bersin hoped the virus would help to encourage the trend that workplaces have no choice but to take care of their people.

He recommended that over the summer, where possible companies take a pause and offer up more holiday allowance to avoid burnout.

Further reading:

Practical tips on holidays and furlough

Majority of HR to encourage remote working post lockdown

CIPD's Festival of Work 2020

HR people grooves part two: a special thank you