The current global pandemic has changed the world as we know it, and how your HR department must function going forward will not escape those changes.
But before we outline the new roles and challenges facing HR, we need to understand its pre-coronavirus role.
Hiring and Recruitment
One of the key roles of the HR department is all in the title: human resources. This department plays a vital role in the hiring and firing of employees within a business.
As well as headhunting and recruitment, these staffers are also responsible for the legal and ethical firing of employees.
Training and Staff Development
It is also HR's job to nurture the staff working in your business in order to get the best work from them. This may be done through additional training or by helping prepare employees for promotions into roles of greater responsibility.
Additional business-wide training may include health and safety briefings or anti-sexual harassment workshops. The HR department is responsible for organizing all of these kinds of workshops.
Employee Relations, Benefits, and Compensation
In the workplace, you are always going to encounter people that are difficult to work with. Fortunately, the HR department is available to help mediate employee relations.
They will deal with any workplace disputes or tensions in a professional manner.
The HR department will also deal with official complaints or compensation claims, as well as with issues like maternity leave. If someone has an accident in your workplace, it is important to let HR deal with it in the best way possible.
Finally, HR knows all the ins and outs of employment law. This is why they are the best people to deal with all legal matters.
However, during the current pandemic, the landscape of the workplace has changed somewhat. [quotesright]Because of this, human resource questions and answers aren't as simple as they used to be. [/quotesright]
Let's take a look at the new challenges and responsibilities facing someone working in HR.
Remote Working: Pandemic Plans and Beyond
In order to maintain social distancing guidelines, many employees are now working remotely. This is made possible by good internet connections and the latest video conferencing software.
There are lots of benefits to remote working for some employees. In every case, it reduces the commuting time for an employee and this can have a positive effect on their productivity. [quotesright]In fact, employers are expecting that some employees will seek to work remotely beyond the end of the coronavirus pandemic.[/quotesright]
However, remote working does require some serious coordination and this creates new jobs for HR departments. They need to support communication across departments in order to ensure that:
- Managers can translate rules, schedules, and communications effectively to their staff,
- Employees have the correct equipment to perform their jobs safely,
- Staff attendance can be monitored and enforced effectively,
- Workplace discipline is maintained remotely, especially in cases of workplace conflict, and
- New full- or part-time schedules can be put in place for certain employees.
HR will have to work closely with each team within your business. They will have to liaise carefully with your IT and finance teams to ensure that remote working doesn't cost your business time or money.
Equipping a Productive Workforce
[quotes]For your employees to work effectively, HR needs to ensure they have the proper equipment.[/quotes] Many people may have a laptop computer or iPad at their home. However, this needs to be available for them to work during the duration of their working day.
Other useful equipment they may need includes:
- Additional monitors,
- Connectivity equipment, such as Wi-Fi boosters,
- Headsets for privacy, and
- Up-to-date software on work computers.
It is important that HR speaks to the finance team about who is going to pay for any additional equipment needed.
Creating a Nurturing Culture in a Dispersed Company
The kit isn't the only thing that employees need to work effectively. Even when people are working remotely, HR has a responsibility to help foster a nurturing workplace. In fact, given the global crisis, this is more important than ever.
Promoting unity on group tasks is extremely important when people are working away from one another.
That is why HR will need to increase its communication with employees on an individual level to ensure that they feel supported. This promotes the feeling of strong leadership in a company and employees will value it long after the pandemic is over.
This may seem like a small task in comparison to the other challenges facing HR at the moment. [quotesright]However, it can have a huge impact on a company's morale and will prevent additional crises from occurring.[/quotesright]
Using a Flexible Workforce
In times of economic uncertainty, a lot of businesses find themselves needing to lay off employees or freeze contracts. This obviously results in a lot more work for HR departments but that's not the only job on their list.
In order to meet the ebbs and flows of work during a global crisis, you may hire temporary contractors to get work done to meet tight deadlines. Managing these independent workers on top of a regular workforce creates an additional task for HR staff.
[quotes]During this time, in fact at any time, it is important to treat your staff with respect and sensitivity.[/quotes] They will remember your actions far beyond the end of the pandemic. Make sure that communication is strong throughout and offer support to those with frozen contracts.
Treating employees well will help your business to retain talented workers in the long run.
Engaging Your Workforce Remotely
Your workforce is one of the most valuable assets in your business, which can help to increase the value of your business in the future. A motivated workforce will:
- Produce much better outcomes than an unmotivated one,
- Treat customers or clients well and help you attract new ones, and
- Stay loyal to your company now and in the future.
[quotes]Because of this, it is important to keep your employees motivated even when they are working remotely.[/quotes] This can be challenging when there are so many distractions going on around your employees.
Regular contact and team-building calls can help keep people engaged in projects. Instead of sending emails, voice calls can help people stay more connected while working together.
However, this is only one part of keeping your employees engaged. HR also has to work hard to ensure that they are helping employees manage any distractions that may impact their ability to work.
For example, your HR team may put a mental health specialist in place. They may also help work out part-time arrangements for employees who have lost childcare due to coronavirus.
Safety and Compliance Requirements
Just because employees aren't working in an office, it doesn't mean that your legal responsibility to them is null and void. HR still has a lot to do to ensure that employees are working safely and within compliance regulations.
Potential problems include:
- ADA, FMLA, Title VII, or other federal and state regulations that limit employer actions,
- Defining ADA concepts such as "disability-related inquiries,” "medical examinations,” "direct threat" or "undue hardships,” during a pandemic,
- Policies for terminating contracts, and
- Finding acceptable teleworking arrangements that also protect employees.
HR also needs to keep up to date on all the latest legislation relating to coronavirus and the workplace. This includes the Families First Coronavirus Response Act from April 2.
[quotesright]Ensuring staff safety remotely can also be a challenge but this must be enforced to prevent potential injury claims.[/quotesright]
Because of this, HR will need to create new resources and information on working safely from home. This should include information on optimum seating positions and how regularly to take a break from your computer.
If you have employees working warehouses or on the road, they should have appropriate protective equipment to do their job safely.
Get Your HR Team Pandemic Ready!
In these uncertain and scary times, HR has a huge role to play in keeping company morale high and employees safe. Fortunately, keeping these pandemic plans in mind will help you prepare for the task.
If you're struggling to stay on top of the task then don't worry, help is at hand. Check out this blog on how a PEO could help!