Rebekah Valero-Lee thought leadership
While the Coronavirus pandemic continues, against a backdrop of businesses eager to restart the economy and individuals seeking advice on how to safely return to work, a new emergency service has emerged which is going largely unnoticed.
Due to some uncertainty around the Government's advice on the steps businesses and their teams should take to arm themselves against the virus, those working for the UK’s six million private sector businesses, and for the millions more operating within public sector services, have turned to their most trusted source of support. Almost overnight, HR teams have become counsellors, employment lawyers and experts on business legislation. They are facing demand for their service and expertise more than ever before.
- But who exactly is supporting them?
- While they are working around the clock, where and what are the most useful sources of advice for HR professionals?
- What are the key business continuity challenges emerging, and how can this sector prepare for the new normal?
We want to hear from HR experts who are finding this time daunting; our team are here to help you. If you think you’re alone, continue reading for the variety of ways the Coronavirus pandemic is presenting a wholly novel challenge to the HR industry.
Day to day operations
Though the Government introduced a largely blanketed approach to how lockdown should be implemented, every business in the UK is different. That means there is a responsibility on every HR professional to assess the guidance and make a judgement, so it can safely and easily be implemented into that organisation’s existing working model.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, lots of HR teams’ agendas for 2020 have changed significantly. And while the weeks and months spent labouring over strategies and processes to help companies achieve their ambitions on targets won’t be totally wasted, it feels like an entirely new challenge to adapt them to cater for a pandemic. For many businesses, the safest option is to work reactively, as the news and response from Government changes daily. But when HR are typically tasked with outlining the comms to be issued to a business in relation to COVID-19, this is a heavy burden to bear.
This challenge is heightened further when some organisations are seeing their absence levels rocket due to team members becoming sick or having to isolate. Not only is this damaging for those who continue to operate, due to the extra demand for their time, but the fluctuation in leave allows very little wriggle room for contingency planning to acquire appropriate staffing levels. Industries that are in demand – manufacturing, ecommerce, food and drink – still require sufficient peoplepower, and it’s up to HR teams to source it. And they’re pressured to do so while continually trying to strike a balance between these unprecedented challenges and positive staff wellbeing.
The future of the HR team
The Government’s business finance schemes have forced HR teams to quickly get to grips with furloughing staff and the resultant claims for loans and grants from HMRC. As a result, HR teams are searching for additional support of their own, with many drafting in temporary expertise to support the spike in HR activity.
HR teams can often be found taking on the role of other departments – for example, payroll and finance – and these are essential tasks which must be completed alongside the demand to get to grips with Coronavirus-related changes in business operations.
Thankfully, there are recruiters – like the Morson Group – on hand who are able to source immediately-available talent to plug this gap in resource and knowhow, meaning HR teams can share some of the pressure with those used to dealing with temporary changes in supply and demand.
This is encouraging many HR teams to reconsider their ways of working, having identified the option to restructure to streamline processes. However, when still little is known about the recommended timeframes of returning to work – and how long the reintroduction of furloughed staff will take to complete – HR teams may be reluctant to consider huge changes in their make-up.
Ultimately, HR teams need to feel empowered and able to liaise with their senior management, MDs and CEOs, to discuss what the short- and long-term futures may hold for businesses, and especially how this will impact their division. If this doesn’t feel possible, they can seek support from regional CIPD teams and unions, as well as industry experts on the challenges of HR, to form a collaborative approach suited to benefit all parties.
Recently, candidates and clients – potential and existing – are seeking our support to gain a clear understanding of markets across different sectors; we work across a huge variety of industries making us best placed to learn lessons from what is working well for one sector, and how it could positively impact another. Plus, our connections with thousands of active candidates means that we can source available talent to support HR teams in their main challenges.
There is no rule book for how businesses should try and survive COVID-19; ultimately, the health of your teams is superior to many other areas. But those struggling to muddle through the fog of the pandemic should utilise every support channel they can. For example, this webinar from the CIPD provides inspiration and tactics on everything from furloughing to mental wellbeing, and everything in between.
We are encouraging every HR professional to open a dialogue with the Morson Group and work collaboratively with us and other key leaders to develop bespoke solutions for your business – because your ‘new normal’ is different to everyone else’s.