We’ve (quite rightly) clapped for carers and saluted the key workers who’ve kept the country ticking over this year. But now it’s time to acknowledge the unsung heroes of your organisation. The ones without whose actions, the whole thing may have fallen apart. And in my view, from what I’ve seen, there’s one profession that’s often overlooked and not recognised. Your People team. Although they’re still referred to as Human Resources (HR) in most companies.
In March the UK’s workplaces were turned upside down, and in many cases, it was HR who stepped up. To organise home working, understand the machinations of the furlough scheme (starting with what the word actually meant) and manage employee wellbeing – all at a time when everyone was under phenomenal pressure to adjust to a new way of living and working.
Eight months on, many HR professionals have spent 2020 dealing with supporting a remote workforce who are in turn juggling home schooling, illness, isolation or mental health issues. Redundancies have had to be managed remotely, pay cuts implemented, training and appraisals delivered, all to a team who are, in many cases, spread all over the UK. It has been an epic and unprecedented challenge.
Not every business has risen to that challenge; but for those that have, it has been HR leading the charge. We’ve seen HR professionals embrace the opportunity to support flexible working and offer more health and wellbeing support. Something that many in the industry have recognised the benefits of for years, but businesses have been slow to adopt. For those who have stepped up, it has unquestionably made a huge and positive difference.
So where do we go from here? I’d like to think this is a blueprint for 2021 and well beyond – employers who are more flexible, more caring and more tuned into their people; no longer just out of grudging necessity, but because it’s the right thing to do and it makes for a happier, more productive workforce.
And for HR, it’s an opportunity to put the ‘human’ back into human resources for good. That’s something we should definitely celebrate.
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