How Are HR Departments Dealing with the Pandemic?

By Michael Klazema on 8/19/2020

Human resource departments have been facing unprecedented challenges since the COVID-19 pandemic began. How can you nourish your organization’s human capital from a distance, especially when company culture is often tied to a physical work environment and the relationships that flourish there? How can you support staff whose childcare needs just became a lot more complicated? How can you help your employees to move forward in their careers with so many facets of “normal” life on hold?

These are just a few of the questions that HR departments are dealing with right now. The magazine Human Resource Executive has been keeping a finger on the pulse of this conversation for months, publishing a “daily dose” of news and insights about the things that HR departments are thinking about right now. Here are a few key takeaways:

  • HR departments need to help their teams combat isolation. While some businesses have gone back to the office, many organizations are still operating remotely. One key function that HR departments can serve at this time is helping their teams to feel connected to one another.

    It’s easy to lose the sense of office camaraderie and company culture when everyone is scattered and communication is limited to a biweekly Zoom call. Encouraging frequent communication via messaging apps such as Slack can help retain some of the crackle of the office.

    Consider scheduling at least one “fun” Zoom call each week—such as on Friday afternoons when everyone is winding down for the week. End the workday an hour or two early and get everyone together to talk about non-work-related things, similar to how after-work happy hours used to work. These simple strategies can help keep your teams connected and break up the monotony of pandemic-driven isolation.

  • HR departments need to provide support for working parents. According to Human Resource Executive21 percent of employers have lost employees because of growing childcare and education needs. Parents used to sending their kids off to school or dropping them off at daycare every day have been finding it more challenging to juggle the responsibilities of parenting and work since the pandemic began. 

    While HR departments can’t wave a magic wand to make these challenges go away, they can implement practices that give stressed parents more support. Flexible work schedules, reduced workloads, more time off: these things can all make a difference for parents who are considering quitting their jobs because they can’t watch or educate their kids while maintaining their pre-pandemic work habits. Being understanding of the challenges that parents are facing can make a difference to morale.

  • Double down on coaching. Early in the pandemic, everyone was in a holding pattern. The prevailing belief was that COVID-19 would be a temporary problem and that things would go back to normal by summer. With summer winding down and no indication that the pandemic is over, more organizations are settling in for the long haul.

    As this shift happens, HR departments are realizing that they have the opportunity to create career development opportunities. The idea of coaching and professional development as work benefits is not new. Still, those opportunities have often been tied to in-person courses, seminars, conferences, or office coaching sessions in the past. Now, as workers get used to functioning as 100 percent remote employees, online learning—and the vast array of potential opportunities that it encompasses—has become a more attractive option for all parties.

HR departments should embrace these possibilities—no professional wants to be standing still for a year or longer. Online coaching is a chance to help employees more their careers forward and develop new skills. It’s also a way to incorporate new or strengthened values into your business, such as diversity, equality, and inclusion.

These three things only scratch the surface of the responsibilities of an HR department. All three also present opportunities that employers can implement quickly to nourish and grow talent during this pandemic rather than losing it.

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  COVID-19  HR

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