The year 2020 has been marked by the global spread of COVID-19. Due to the widespread and profound impact the pandemic has had on every facet of life, the US economy is in a deep downturn that may take years to recover.
If your business is one of the ones that’s survived the effects of COVID-19 thus far, you still may be very concerned about your ability to remain profitable. This concern is widespread and justified, since many forecasts agree that the overall economy won’t achieve pre-pandemic levels until 2022, at the earliest. It may be time to consider how HR professionals can help your organization transform and operate in a way that will help you to regain profitability faster and put your company in a better position to meet changing market demands.
HR Functions During the Pandemic
The pandemic has forced many companies to evolve their business models in ways that have transformed operations. But this transformation is hardly complete; now is the time to consider how other small changes can continue to promote efficiency and drive business. In many instances, businesses can gain a competitive advantage by looking to their HR professionals to drive new business and grow to accommodate emerging market trends.
The pandemic itself has illustrated the vital role that HR professionals play in keeping operations going as they serve on the front lines to communicate crucial information across the organization, address employee concerns, and maintain compliance in an ever-changing regulatory landscape. In short, the rapid transformation that many companies have experienced could never have been achieved without HR professionals.
And their job is far from done. The role of the HR professional will continue to be increasingly important as companies continue to experience the “growing pains” that come with permanent or semi-permanent remote work policies, or other logistical challenges in safely bringing back customers and employees.
HR and the New Working Model
Many companies simply aren’t prepared for the business realities they may face during the recovery period. Still, HR professionals can play an instrumental role in realigning the business and its priorities to match what the market currently needs. This process often means taking stock of new/emerging priorities, preparing the workforce, and determining how to address workplace challenges—new ways of working, more efficient processes, and changing business requirements.
And the key to many of the changes that companies are seeing is the vital role of technology. The past few months have seen the rapid adoption of new technologies to enable changes in the workplace. HR professionals play a key role in validating and adopting these technologies and ensuring that the workforce is trained and ready to use them.
Businesses that required agile learning—the process where individuals learn new tools quickly to respond to unexpected changes—often couldn’t have accomplished massive and effective deployments without strong HR support. And these HR professionals can continue to contribute valuable insight into technology decisions and deployments across the company. In many instances, these HR-guided decisions can ensure that technological solutions are aligned with the company’s vision and mission.
In addition to assisting with technology integration, HR professionals will likely continue to play an integral role in defining and shaping a company’s culture, which may be more difficult than ever in instances where remote working is the norm. As the functions of hiring, onboarding, and training staff are done more frequently without ever meeting an applicant in person, companies will need HR professionals who feel comfortable with completing these tasks virtually. In many instances, an experienced HR person can make the entire process seamless. The bottom line is that HR professionals can help to cultivate the types of connections needed to foster a strong company culture—which will be a tremendous challenge for many companies in the coming months.
The regulatory and compliance landscape is also changing. Many different programs have been introduced to help businesses overcome COVID-related challenges, but participation in these programs often comes with complex legal and tax requirements. The expertise of skilled HR professionals will be necessary to ensure that you’re remaining compliant amid a dizzying array of different reporting requirements.
Why HR Matters More than Ever
Many companies are struggling financially right now. Some have even implemented hiring freezes or cut down on their staffing expenses. But despite the challenges that many companies must face, cuts or freezes to HR staffing can often be far more detrimental than the short-term financial gains.
In fact, due to the current challenges, now may be the right time to focus on staffing up your HR team and ensuring that they have the skills to help steer your business in the right direction. HR professionals who understand the current business climate and how to connect with the workforce and customers are more valuable than ever before.
When you have the right HR team in place, these individuals can play an important role in everything your company does, from the day-to-day tasks of managing employees and ensuring that compliance is met, to the big-picture strategic decisions you need to make. HR professionals often bring a different perspective and skillset to the table. And it’s one that’s more crucial than ever in a period that calls for rapid change and evolving responses.
HR professionals also understand the need to balance short-term business needs with a long-term vision—another task that may be particularly challenging in the current environment. Right now, most businesses are consumed with trying to stay afloat and operate under a “new normal.” And while this is incredibly important, HR staff members know that you can’t sacrifice long-term goals to appease short-term needs, no matter how urgent they may seem.
If you haven’t considered how your HR staff could contribute to this broad range of business functions, you’re under-utilizing their talents, or may not have enough HR team members. It may be time to analyze how you could better use HR professionals to drive business in 2020 and beyond.