HR has been traditionally seen as a support function and cost centre, which still holds true in many organizations, rather than a strategic Business Enablement function. The immediate Covid situation magnifies each function based on their value proposition in the current market, and thereby provides a unique opportunity for HR to prove its worth. It might be considered as a make or break situation for HR, with businesses scrutinizing every structure of their organizations, but the high risk also increases the gains considerably if the HR is able to land on its feet. Thus it translates into an opportunity to redefine HR function and the core deliverables, adding significant value to the respective organizations. The pandemic, in spite of its debilitating effects, has opened up many different avenues for HR to explore, become visible and influence the business actively. Traditional HR teams have become redundant as more business functionalities are shifting to virtual platforms. In such a scenario, business leaders are questioning the need of an HR team in their organizations, while many are favoring outsourcing experts for their requirements.
Though such questions may arise, the need for a strong HR leadership is important now more than ever. Organizations require adept HR leaders capable of managing multiple functions simultaneously — people connect, advisor to the board, and having the ability to deliver with a compact team. The role of HR will now encompass ever expanding areas — environmental, social, governance, corporate communication, and others. In times to come, HR may not have the luxury to have large team. Thereby, HR will need to adopt technology to automate certain functions while other functions can be outsourced. HR leaders need to focus primarily on strategic planning on how to shift the organizational daily workings to a more virtual landscape. Similar to the majority of the workforce, HR executives have to get reskilled and integrated in other parts of their respective organizations.
Therefore, HR has to evolve in such a manner as to take up a wider variety of roles. Some of the steps to achieve the same are:
HR can no longer be only aligned to people functions; it has to become intimately aligned with the business. HR also has to be willing and able to take up additional responsibilities over a wider area of functionality. Another emerging facet is of many business leaders taking on HR as an added responsibility, and then transitioning smoothly into HR. Currently, not many HR professionals are able to successfully transition into business roles, excepting a few leaders. HR professionals have to become fluent in numbers and business;
HR professionals and leaders have to be pioneers of technological experiences. Tech and virtual platforms make it easier for organizations to be able to function as a team spanning a wide area. Thus, HR has to be adept and fluent in tech jargon and be the first to initiate all tech advancements in the field;
At the same time, employees and business leaders have to become used to a wider functioning HR — it is no longer responsible only for the ‘Rangoli Competition’ in the workplace, but also responsible place holders in the organization. Keeping the current work scenario of engaging via virtual platforms, HR will have to come up with a viable plan to ensure maximum engagement and productivity of the employees;
HR will become the vigilante of the organizational strategy planning and goal achievement. They will have to frequently take stock of where the organization is headed in terms of reaching the set targets;
HR will have to successfully translate the organizational culture and values on the virtual platforms. They have to ensure that the correct infrastructure is available for the employees to be able to work effectively from their respective remote locations, and to carry the responsibility for employee-connect with the organization and with each other. HR needs to be available at every possible juncture for its employees to be able to reach out for any queries or help. Additionally, HR also has to periodically check-in on the employee’s well-being. One of the major concerns coming up in recent times has been of mental health — HR has to be sensitive to the employee’s requirements and ensure their mental well-being as much as possible;
These are extraordinary times in more ways than one, and in the current situation, a number of employees are working from home, surrounded by family. Therefore, it becomes imperative that the employee is treated in a manner conducive to the new normal — HR is thus tasked with sensitizing business leaders and managers on navigating this;
Recruitment and onboarding, as and when it happens, have to be automated via the virtual medium. As location is no longer a hindrance, HR can focus on recruiting the best match for their organization. Onboarding needs to be an engaging activity as the new recruits have to be informed of the organizational values and visions — it becomes incumbent on the HR to actively work and make the person feel welcome and part of a family;
Performance management parameters have to be updated and adjusted as per the current virtual platforms. Benefits, similarly, need to be modified in accordance with current needs and requirements of the employees. HR also has to ensure that the employees have adequate knowledge to be as productive on the virtual mediums as they would be in the office. Learning, reskilling, and upskilling is mandatory now, and it devolves to the HR to ensure the aforementioned practices in order to avoid any loss of people capital or retrenching situations;
HR has to become active partners in the business decisions which impact the employees. Organizations are under sustained tremendous financial pressures, and may many a times have to look into budgeting options, whereby HR, marketing, admin, etc., become vulnerable to these decisions. Though HR is a critical function, still it depends on the HR leader to guide the business without much loss of employment.
These transformations are not only applicable to the HR, but to the organizations as a whole. However, only the HR can be the pioneer for these transformations and be an example and guide for the other parts of the organization to follow. The HR teams may go through significant distress in terms of new roles and responsibilities. How the HR leaders handle and adapt to these changes will set the tone for the success of the venture.
These ideas will be discussed in greater details in a subsequent series of blogs, which shall soon follow.