As the people function, HR has a significant role to play

We are entering uncharted territory. Whilst no-one is entirely sure how it will play out, the ripple from this pandemic will be felt for years to come. As with any crisis, it can bring out the best and the worst in people.

And it is a people crisis, impacting not just our health. From family life to the way we socialise and work, it is affecting our very being. People are afraid – for their lives and their livelihoods. They are uncertain whether it will ever return to ‘normal’.

Defining the new ‘normal’

This is the context in which we now live and work. As the people function, this is the backdrop against which HR must step up and help. The world of work is already looking very different. It is our role to help people make the change – for some, it will be helping them to adjust to reduced hours and maybe not even working at all.

Successful transformation occurs when strategy, structure, process and people are aligned. From the practical, regulatory and operational considerations to strategic and psychological leadership support, the HR function will be crucial over the coming weeks and months.

First and foremost, we need to be clear about our responsibilities for keeping the risk of infection to ourselves, our colleagues and clients to a minimum. The challenge is how we can continue to do business, whilst acting responsibly within the communities in which we live and work. With supply chains disrupted, demand for most products and services diminished and a workforce largely on lockdown, organisations are under pressure.

We’ve already received them (and probably sent a few ourselves), but despite the perky emails suggesting otherwise, we need to be clear that this is not ‘business as usual’. The world has changed, and we need to adapt.

Leadership support

This is where theory is scrutinised and leaders are tested. Leaders, before you do anything, you need to understand the psychology of uncertainty – how it affects the decision-making process and how it makes people feel. Some of you will be paralysed by it, others irrational and kneejerk in your responses. To move forward, we must develop a clear, rational narrative around the things that are genuinely within our control.

For more on this read Leading through uncertainty

While it may be time to literally batten down the hatches, we need to have one eye on the horizon and be formulating an ‘exit strategy’. It is an opportunity to seize the moment and reimagine what your organisation might look like in the future. Certainly, it will be the lean, agile, creative organisations that are quick to adapt, whatever the disruption, that will have the best chance of making it through.

Practical advice

We understand that this is about survival and that for some leaders without an in-house HR function you just need some practical advice. While remote working is on the rise (three times higher than in 2016, according to Global Workplace Analytics), for some organisations this is a completely new scenario. As such, we are compiling some quick-read guides that will give you an overview of all the regulatory, operational and performance issues you will need to consider, helping you mitigate risk and keep your organisation working.

Most organisations will need to cut costs. Whether it’s reduced working, lay-offs or redundancies, there are some tough people-decisions ahead. From renegotiating contracts to sick pay and benefits, we are also developing resources that will help keep you on the right side of compliance whilst offering some alternative solutions.

Communication & engagement

For the uninitiated, HR is so much more than an administrative and compliance function; it is also about people and performance. When the world of work has been turned on its head, you will need to re-evaluate what ‘good’ looks like and, when they’re working remotely, how to engage and motivate your people.

They will be reassured by information. So, maintain regular contact and update them on what’s happening, even if it’s bad news. You are in this together. People want clarity and they want honesty. They want to feel cared for and they want to be respected as human beings. They also want to be treated as individuals.

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Talk to us

If you’d prefer to speak with someone about a specific issue directly, then please call.

For operational HR Advice, call

Victoria Beadle: 07988 276402


For strategic leadership support, call

Philippa Richards: 07732 068624
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