As the writer Jeff Goins has so famously stated, “Pivoting is not Plan B, it’s part of the process.”
The COVID-19 crisis has placed intense pressure on Human Resources departments. Beyond the standard demands of recruitment, arranging and executing performance reviews, overseeing benefits, staff development, managing corporate-wide compensation, regulatory compliance, and the host of associated administrative tasks in between, HR staff now have to address the burdens inherent in a worldwide pandemic.
In developing or updating an existing business continuity plan for HR departments, companies need to consider the requirements of both on-site and remote staff. In an article by Gartner entitled “10 Questions for an HR Pandemic Plan,” Group Vice President Brian Kropp states, “When SARS spread to four continents in 2003, executives at several companies told us that managing employees’ concerns and questions was one of the most time-consuming associated activities.”
The article lists Gartner’s ten recommended questions as:
- Can the company operate with 25% or higher absenteeism?
- If illness causes high absenteeism, are employees cross-trained and able to perform multiple duties?
- Can employees work remotely?
- What infrastructure support is needed to support a shift to an at-home office?
- Will the company monitor or restrict travel to high-risk regions?
- What procedures are in place to decontaminate the facility?
- What assurances are needed to provide to the facility staff member for them to feel safe?
- How will traveling employees be brought home, particularly if they are sick?
- Are there escalation procedures to get additional resources?
- Is there a crisis management team that includes on-call staff?
For international companies, Gartner also recommends that local teams be given the autonomy to develop policies that specifically address their regions. To employ an environmental phrase: “Think globally but act locally.”
Beyond the practical day-to-day challenges, HR now must deal with the increased level of emotional concerns from employees. In its blog, “An HR Checklist for the Coronavirus Crisis: Protect Employees, Manage Business Risk and Maintain Engagement,” HR Magazine lists six key steps for addressing the effects of a pandemic. Among them: err on the side of maintaining employee well-being rather than strictly focusing on the financial impact. Deploying such an approach can “earn priceless capital in the form of strengthened employer brand and employee engagement.” A company’s reputational risk needs to be considered as strongly as the financial ones.
HR Magazine’s six critical steps for addressing the pandemic:
- Maintain business continuity
- Deliver clear, frequent communications
- Maintain employee health at work
- Review employee paid time-off policies
- Expand virtual working
- Maintain essential HR/payroll operations and legal compliance
At this point in the crisis, these plans have been – or should have been – put into place. Post-crisis, firms can review each of their business continuity procedures, especially in the human resources function, and make any necessary adjustments. Going forward, other considerations could include reducing overhead costs and process breaks by outsourcing certain functions. The use of SaaS-based BPO (Business Processing Outsourcing) offerings, for example, can provide peace-of-mind and allow companies to concentrate on their businesses.
One such function, RPO (Recruitment Processing Outsourcing), can supplement or even completely replace the efforts required in finding quality candidates. As in the case of a BPO, transferring the recruitment process to a third-party allows an HR department to focus on its numerous other functions.