Why HR must prepare for the unexpected

The pandemic has highlighted that getting too comfortable can prove costly as things can change at the flick of a switch, says Stephanie Kelly

The past 18 months have been tough for everyone and particularly in the business world – HR leaders have been the unsung heroes. Throughout this period there has been a constant sense of uncertainty, with many HR teams tackling previously unseen issues, such as changes in working patterns, working from home and government initiatives affecting payroll. 

As the nation opens again and workers begin to gradually return to the office, that unsettling sense of uncertainty surrounding the workplace remains. 

Just as they have done throughout the pandemic, HR functions will continue to ensure the operations of businesses are both streamlined and futureproofed, no matter what comes next. But dwelling on this won’t help businesses and employees. While it’s impossible to predict the future, HR leaders must prepare for the unexpected, by accepting the unexpected. 

Hybrid working is here to stay 

While HR teams are contending with office re-introduction strategies, there remains a genuine desire from the workforce to continue working from home (WFH) in some form. A recent CIPD report found 40 per cent of employers expect more than 50 per cent of their workforce to work regularly from home after the pandemic ends. 

Given these figures, it’s uncertain how business leaders will react and adapt their WFH policies. Will firms change to meet the preferences of employees? Or will they go against the grain and implement office-only working? 

It’s clear there can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach. To face uncertainty head on and accept the unexpected, HR departments need to be agile, knowing there could be abrupt changes to working patterns. Hybrid working enables leaders to make the most of every situation.

Add flexibility to operations 

To futureproof for unexpected changes, HR must integrate flexibility into their day-to-day working lives. They need to streamline lengthy processes, so they have the bandwidth to adapt to unanticipated challenges when needed. 

Time is precious and must be used as effectively as possible as firms navigate operations post pandemic. HR staff can’t afford to have their hands tied by being held back by inefficient, low-value tasks, such as being forced to head into the office to run paper-based administration tasks. 

As the pandemic highlighted, business continuity is crucial, but if you’re managing HR on spreadsheets and calendar reminders, it’s incredibly tough for someone to pick up if you are off on sick leave, or if home working is company policy. As such, HR teams might consider a secure, cloud-based system that contains all useful files, has employee self-service and other value-add modules.

A system like this extends across all environments – from the office to home – giving HR teams the freedom to manage tasks from a location that’s best suited to them. The flexibility offered by a cloud-based system can align with an organisation’s hybrid working strategy. 

With the right tools, processes become far more intuitive and customer support is always on hand, making unplanned handovers far more successful. Ultimately, a cloud-based HR solution allows the teams it serves to become the best version of themselves.

Futureproof for the unexpected

It’s clear there is still a huge appetite for WFH and the wider conversation on hybrid working is far from over. No-one really knows how the future of work will pan out. As we have learned from the pandemic, becoming too comfortable can prove extremely costly – things can change with the flick of a switch. 

To futureproof operations, HR leaders must become comfortable with the fact that things constantly change. To face this head on, they should put the best HR infrastructure in place as this will stand them in the best stead to thrive moving forward, helping them be at their most efficient and most effective.

Stephanie Kelly is chief people officer at IRIS Software Group