Why HR leaders should be flexible beyond a global crisis

by Trixie Whyte

Human resources leaders were already faced with a myriad of organizational responsibilities and problems―from compensation and benefits to employee engagement―prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. But now, they’re handling more than their usual tasks, some of which they’re dealing with for the first time.

A survey conducted by Josh Bersin, the MIT Sloan Management Review and CultureX, showed that HR leaders are now mainly focusing on the health and wellbeing of employees, the transition to remote work, the need to maintain engagement and work remotely, and the security of jobs. While these concerns aren’t new, remote work in particular has definitely been an untouched challenge for many organizations. Data shows that, in the U.S. alone, 80% of employers did not have a remote-work program before the pandemic occurred, making it harder for them to adapt to changes in flexible work settings and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Challenges in the workplace have also changed for the most part. For example, HR leaders are now finding it more difficult to coordinate responses across teams and business units. They are also discovering that two-way communication is not as effective during the crisis. Lastly, most organizations don’t have a business continuity plan, especially one that covers a global pandemic.

In order to navigate these new experiences, HR leaders are now rethinking their strategies processes for the benefit of both their employees and organization. Fortunately, there are hundreds and thousands of solutions today that make it possible for HR leaders to be flexible with their work, not just amidst the pandemic but in the future as well. Two of these major solutions are digital technologies and outsourcing services.

The age of digital transformation

While the pandemic has proven to be the most challenging part of everyone’s lives, it has also certainly become a wake up call, especially for businesses, to remodel and improve their operations―including their digital transformation.

With most workplaces being forced to temporarily close down to prevent the spread of the virus, HR leaders are now conducting their work online with the help of various collaboration tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Employees no longer have to physically submit documents or approach several point people for an inquiry as they can now do everything with just a click of a button.

In the Philippines, a study by Lenovo showed that 87% of Filipinos are now more ready to adapt and adopt flexible work arrangements thanks to corporate technology investments made by their employers. Additionally, tech-savvy millennials and Gen Z employees, which make up nearly 60% of the workforce in the country today, are seen driving the development and adoption of technology for remote working and collaboration.

Many tech companies today have developed systems that can help streamline various organizational tasks. Technology startup Salarium, for example, recently launched a touchless solution that records the time and attendance of employees who have resumed working in the office. It can detect faces, even those that are partly covered with face masks, and scan the temperature of employees. 

Salarium has other solutions that make it easier for HR leaders to manage what used to be very tedious administrative tasks such as timekeeping and payroll disbursement. They are currently serving a wide range of clients from different industries in the Philippines such as AutoDeal and Xtendly.

SWAT Mobility, a provider of smart mobility solutions, is also another company that offers apps designed to help improve the mobility concerns of many organizations. It recently found in a study that companies in the Philippines employ an average of seven people just to manually organize transportation routes for their employee shuttle or bus fleets. This task alone takes up so much from the day of HR and admin employees.

SWAT’s smart mobility apps take this kind of burden off of their shoulders. By digitizing their employee transportation processes, HR and admin staff members will have more time to do other tasks and similarly transport employees safely, which is important amidst the pandemic. The company has supported local organizations such as KMC Solutions and even the Philippine General Hospital with its technology.

With these technologies already in place, HR leaders now have more legroom to improve their operations. HR industry analyst Jason Averbook even argued that HR-led digital transformation is now more vital than ever and that HR leaders should metaphorically rewrite their strategies in “henna”, instead of permanent ink, as the workplace continuously goes through rapid changes.

Getting help through outsourced services

Even with the help of technology, HR leaders are still faced with a mountain of responsibilities. As business leaders continuously change their decisions to adapt to the times, HR leaders should also be flexible and quick with their initiatives as well. One probable solution to such a case is outsourcing HR services.

Outsourcing HR services have been instrumental even prior to the pandemic. Not only do outsourced services help lift the burden off of HR leaders’ shoulders, but they also help organizations reduce costs when it comes to salaries, benefits, and hiring and training new employees. Investing in third-party services also saves companies from penalties from non-compliance with employment laws and regulations.

In a way, outsourced HR services has helped HR leaders, and organizations in general, step up in their game.

For the past 20 years, our company, Q2 HR Solutions, has been helping various organizations and multinational companies find the right talent for their business through our core services such as Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO), organizational development and design, talent screening, and salary and benefit disbursement, among other things. We have supported some of the top companies in the country such as Globe, HSBC, and Accenture.

Even when the pandemic affected the Philippines, we continued with our mission of uplifting the lives of Filipions as a strategic partner of companies. Much like everyone else, we remodeled our services and initiatives to fit the demands of the new normal in the country. We have organized several webinars that cover business strategies and laws that organizations can take note of as they adjust during this difficult time.

We also recently held a virtual job fair to equally help companies manage these unprecedented times and jobseekers find employment. 

Outsourced HR service providers in other countries have similarly pivoted according to the effects of the pandemic. American company Paychex has launched various COVID-19 contingency plans to seamlessly address the concerns of their clients. TriNet has done something similar, even adding pandemic-related webcasts and new full-service HR solutions to cater to affected small- and medium-size enterprises.

Through these solutions, HR leaders can breathe a sigh of relief and tune in to other tasks that they previously were not able to attend to.

The role of HR has never been static; it changes in parallel with the organization and its people. Today, HR leaders are entrusted with more duties, making them catalysts of a new business landscape. As we continue to navigate the effects of the pandemic, it’s important that HR remains flexible, not just to survive the ongoing crisis but to prepare for the future as well.

Trixie Whyte is founder and chairwoman of Q2 Group of Companies.

Topics: Everyman , Human resources , COVID-19 pandemic , Josh Bersin
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