With all that is happening in the world right now, HR professionals are currently operating under huge pressure. However challenging the situation might be, there is a silver lining: HR now has a golden opportunity to become trusted advisors as companies restructure their businesses to cope with the unforeseeable future and changing business demands.

When the winds of change blow, there are people who build walls to keep the wind out – and people who build windmills. The COVID-19 pandemic has already made its mark on the global economy, and nobody really knows where we’re headed. The increased uncertainty is a constant challenge.

My message to HR is this: the best course of action right now – is to take action. Yes, these are uncertain times, but by looking at the immediate, short-term and long-term needs of their businesses, HR professionals can make a real difference and be the driving force that leads the organisation through challenging times. By moving closer to the decision-making process today, HR will become more integral to the business strategy in the future.

My message to HR is this: the best course of action right now – is to take action.

Getting back to basics

As we speak, HR departments everywhere are focusing on functions that directly support businesses short-term as they are finding new ways to operate. All companies are up against the same challenge: decisions need to be made, and they need to be made fast. Scaling down under ‘normal’ circumstances takes months of elaborate preparations, but right now, speed is more important. It really is a case of pace over beauty.

If you have fat, trim it – but don’t cause unnecessary damage that will harm your ability to grow in the future. Companies need to focus on being more agile in terms of scalability. Can we scale down for the next 6 months – and rapidly scale back up when the opportunity arises?

HR can easily support these crucial decisions by truly owning the organisation’s people data and knowing how to use it. By building a relevant HR master data set, following the right reporting practices and keeping key HR KPIs easily at hand, HR can support decision-making by providing the right numbers and being proactive in seeing new opportunities.

Avoid causing unnecessary damage that will harm your ability to grow in the future.

If instead, the focus is on permanently reducing employee numbers, then this indicates you have no intention of scaling back up again in the future, which can be both short-sighted and gives the wrong message to your team. Your employees may be on a path to building skills and experiences that majorly contribute to your team’s capabilities. You should focus on keeping the people that will help your business grow long-term.

The way we work will change – and HR can support the transition

HR professionals who give trusted, accurate information to other management members over the following months have the opportunity to turn new and updated HR processes into business opportunities.

As an example, remote work looks set to be here for a while, which opens up the possibility to recruit and work with talent from across the world. An HR department that can provide cross-border insights will be essential for companies who embrace remote culture moving forward. Organisations are currently trialling remote-first work on a global scale, and the winners will be the ones that turn current difficulties such as recruitment and remote leadership into future opportunities.

In a wider context, many organisations are focused on change-readiness; becoming more adaptable to change in the future. Lockdown restrictions will eventually start to ease in many countries, and companies will slowly start ramping up operations accordingly. This is a crucial time to learn how to build HR processes and a workforce that is treated the right way when scaling – both up and down – occurs in the future, whatever the reason for the unexpected change might be.

Now is the time to learn how to build HR processes that allow you to scale your business both up and down.

Purpose is key for long-term success

A strong purpose is potentially a winning case for HR departments, as organisations can build a deep culture around it.

HR can help ensure businesses act with a purpose their workforce understands. We will all remember the actions of those organisations that did all they could to treat their employees in a respectful and humane way during this crisis.

External pressure and employee sentiment will force companies to take action. A strong purpose that people can believe in helps people act in a more agile way, as it enables businesses to quickly pivot to new ways of working. Companies that embrace the shift to a ‘new normal’ are the ones likely to succeed.

HR is central in building the culture and purpose. By stepping up to the plate, proving the value HR can bring to support crucial business decisions, HR will move where it belongs: to the centre of the organisation, ensuring that decisions are guided by the right HR KPIs.

HR now has a chance to move where it belongs – to the centre of the organisation, ensuring that decisions are guided by the right HR KPIs.

Finally…

The path to success is still not defined, as it never will be – but by focusing on building scalable and flexible key HR functions, building a solid HR master data set that empowers business decision-making, and unifying HR process across borders and technologies, HR can be at the front line to lead businesses to a brighter future.

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