To say the coronavirus pandemic has rapidly and profoundly changed the world of work would be an understatement to say the least. At time of writing, the wages of a quarter of UK workers are being paid through the government’s furlough scheme. Employers are ramping up plans to test staff at workplace doors, along with other stringent measures such as banning hot desking and meetings of longer than 15 minutes. And many frontline staff are valiantly continuing to work through the constraints of social distancing rules and protective equipment (PPE) – conditions most could never have imagined before Covid-19.
The outbreak has necessitated some of the most radical changes ever seen to the way HR does what it does – changes felt right across the board, from recruitment and onboarding to employee wellbeing and learning and development. “HR has rolled up its sleeves, cracked on and done a great job,” says Angela O’Connor, founder of The HR Lounge and former HR director – all in the face of incredibly tough conditions, such as HR and L&D budget cuts, protecting staff wellbeing and jobs in the face of serious hits to business profitability, and an inability to conduct many processes in person.
Unfortunately, many of these constraints will likely last well after lockdown ends, with the economic downturn caused by coronavirus forecast to be significant. So HR professionals will need to carry on solving people problems with the creativity evidenced already by so many.
But it’s not all bad news. In fact, many of the changes HR has had to roll out short term to keep their organisations going, have thrown up potentially better ways of doing things going forwards. And the crisis could in fact be an enticing chance to build some things from scratch, now the world of work – and leaders’ and employees’ expectations of it – have been so radically disrupted. “I think we’ve done lots of things in the past because we used to do them like that,” says O’Connor. “I’ve always been surprised and disappointed by the sequential nature of many HR processes. Now people are doing various parts of some processes simultaneously. I hope smart HR people will see this as the door they’ve been pushing at now being blown off its hinges. And they can just take advantage and run with it.
“It’s not just the mechanics of innovation, it’s also about the skill of innovation – and the skill of agility. We talked about agility, but did we really recognise what it meant? Well, we do now.”
So what will ongoing disruption caused by such an unprecedented crisis mean in practice for key HR activities? And what innovations are organisations already anticipating will stick? To find out, People Management has taken an in-depth look at corporate governance, leadership, reward, recruitment and more, asking how best people practitioners can seize the opportunity to shape the future of the profession for the better – and influence, now so many things about the world of work have been thrown up in the air, just where the pieces land.
Read the series of features below:
- Rethinking corporate governance after Covid-19
- What has coronavirus taught us about leadership and where do we go from here?
- Has Covid-19 caused an L&D revolution?
- Why the pandemic has been OD's time to shine
- How will reward strategies change after Covid?
- Will Covid-19 change approaches to wellbeing for the better?
- How coronavirus has driven innovation in recruitment