Since 2001, Human Resource Professional Day has been observed on September 26 with the intention of paying tribute to those working in HR departments around the world. Human Resource Professional Day is a day to raise awareness and celebrate the contributions of HR departments and their team members. This year we have even more reason to celebrate the efforts of HR professionals, as the ongoing pandemic has changed the way organizations of all sizes operate, with HR at the front lines of employers’ response to COVID-19.
As businesses quickly transitioned to a new world of working from home, virtual meetings, and staggered work times, they turned to HR departments to create and expand remote work policies, rethink how to recruit and develop talent virtually, and reimagine how to maintain productivity and employee engagement. Forbes writes, “The coronavirus pandemic has caused tremendous disruption in lives and in business, and human resources is key to supporting companies and catalyzing changes in the workplace.” So, as we celebrate Human Resource Professional Day today, let’s take note of the impressive ways HR has adapted during this unparalleled time:
Human Resource Professional Day: Remote work policies and engagement
Long before the coronavirus elevated remote work across the country, virtual employment was on the rise. According to Flexjobs, the number of people telecommuting in the U.S. increased 159 percent in the past 10+ years. But as the crisis quickly grew in our country, it forced almost every non-essential business to immediately develop and adopt remote work policies and procedures. What came next was the need to keep employees engaged and productive from home, which quickly became a top priority for HR.
HR teams were suddenly asked to help guide employees through those changes, working closely with finance, IT, and leadership, to define new cultural norms, work policies and procedures. HR was recruited to answer questions such as, how do we redefine flexibility, who pays for remote work set up and equipment, how do we virtually manage employee development, how do we adjust our healthcare benefits?
Additionally, HR quickly needed to identify how to maintain engagement, with no in-person fellowship to bring employees together. It was imperative to evaluate how teams were doing – were they sufficiently connected, was the right technology in place to get the work done and allow for internal collaboration in a disconnected environment? HR professionals were looked to for countless answers to never-before asked questions, and they swiftly responded with plans to keep employees connected and business moving forward.
Talent acquisition and retention
As we know, an organization’s success is based on its people, and having the right talent in the right roles. As the virus quickly spread, HR teams had to learn new skills: how to cultivate and manage talent during an ongoing pandemic. This required fundamental shifts in processes, and HR teams led the plans for those changes. They understood the importance of continuing to develop in-house talent, of finding virtual ways to foster employee growth while maintaining physical distancing.
HR professionals also knew that even during a global crisis, keeping a skilled talent pipeline was critical for when new openings developed. As SHRM noted in a recent article, “With millions of new entrants into the job market, employers that are focused on recruiting will be well-positioned to fill critical roles with suddenly accessible top talent at all levels, from executives to front-line workers.“ HR teams have always focused on the development of people, and the onset of COVID-19 truly showcased how creative and adaptable these teams could be to allow businesses to cultivate and attract top talent.
Supporting employee morale and well being
HR professionals have always known that high employee morale results in increased collaboration, retention, and productivity, all of which add up to a more successful business. Yet as the pandemic struck, teams who once regularly collaborated in person were isolated to only themselves. CustomerThink wrote, “Businesses must recognize that loneliness is a central part of their customers’—and employees’—lives, and that finding human ways to connect is imperative.” As the world began to realize that the virus was not slowing down and we were in this for the long haul, HR teams let employees know that their well- being, both physically and emotionally, was a top priority.
Under the direction of HR, teams quickly identified strategies to ensure employees felt supported. Many organizations developed morale-boosting opportunities such as virtual happy hours, employee care packages, inner-department challenges, and employee assistance programs on exercise, nutrition, and financial counseling. And as we see the remote workforce inevitably growing even after the pandemic ends, HR teams are putting plans into place, to continue these nurturing practices well into the future.
In the end, what we saw throughout this pandemic is that HR professionals drive change, the change that reinvents organizations. Thank you to all HR professionals, for guiding our businesses through this unforeseeable time, and for driving the change that keeps our teams productive and our businesses thriving. Happy Human Resource Professional Day.