The Role of an HR Manager and HR Department before, during, and after the Covid-19 Pandemic

Vaibhav
November 2, 2020

It is no secret if I tell you that, during this pandemic, the organizations have been hit hard. You must have noticed, organizations are making rapid changes to their working culture and departments endeavoring to fit according to the situation.

I am sure, we all must have seen a different side of HR during this pandemic. While some companies have downsized employees, others have still managed to retain them well. You would say, it is the management that decides all these things, how does the credit go to HR? If you are not aware, HR plays a very crucial role in planning the workforce.

As farsighted professionals, they are able to forecast and plan accordingly. Their astute speculation and evaluation prowess have earned them the position of being at the core of any organization. 

HR managers have been systematically involved in projecting. They are an important link between the management and the employees that maintains the right balance. They hold the power to convince the management of crucial decision making.

There might be many cliched and decorated words that might describe HR, there are also many that would come to cross-question, what does an HR do?

The way HR functions are carried out seamlessly is a skill the HR hone. Knowing how versatile an HR's role is in the company, is knowing where they come to assist you, sometimes in bright light and otherwise as your undercover agents. HR Managers come to facilitate and affect a lot of functions in an organization. What most people would fail to observe is that HR comes in a very crucial role. Especially in the wake of the pandemic, the HR has come to amplify their stake in the following roles, which do not reflect in their job profiles. Nonetheless, they are involved in every aspect to create fulfilling experiences. They act as -

  • Strategic Planner
  • Co-ordinator
  • Facilitator
  • Spokesperson
  • Advisory 
  • Trendsetter
  • Creator
  • Welfare & Development
  • Counselor
  • Negotiator

These and many more roles the HR manager have adorned over time in the functioning of a company and its operations. While what majority of us know of the HR managers is the much-known customary responsibilities of -

  • Recruitment
  • Training 
  • Performance Appraisals
  • Employee Relations
  • Conflict Management
  • Rewards & Recognition
  • Succession Planning
  • Payroll Management
  • Overall Management

And then, is it just that to an HR's role? Have you ever thought about it?

Look into the current pandemic situation and think-

  • Why some HR come across as game-changers?
  • Why some companies have the least attrition rates?
  • Why some people are very happy working with their organization? 
  • Why some companies can attract talent easily? 
  • Why are some companies able to retain talent despite not very good payment structure and the market situations?
  • How some employees are conveniently working from home even in the face of the pandemic?
  • How are their salaries and other operational functions are taken care of?
  • Why certain HR policies are versatile to the changing pandemic situation?

The answer to these questions is self-explanatory if you evaluate your organization in the backdrop of these questions. While some companies have been able to retain employees despite all the odds and challenges, some have been less successful. The credit of this somewhere belongs to the HR manager and the set standards and policies.

HR functions touch every aspect of business and let me tell you how. The significance of an HR role will come across in all the below aspects of an employee experience.

Strategic Planner

The work from home comfort in the pandemic days has been a big relief because of the thoughtful policies defined by your HR. While some people might still need to struggle to get to work in these difficult times, you have the leverage to work from home.

In this altered scenario, the way salaries, recruitment, attrition, and appraisals all need a different outlook and planning. Here, HR comes to make the changes seamlessly.

Training is shifted online, to see that you keep sharpening your saw.

HR Managers across SMEs have budget constraints and therefore they effectively define budgets and strategically allot funds across different operations within the budget. This quality of HR helps to sustain in tough times.

Co-ordinator

The HR Manager is a co-ordinator who keeps the employees abreast of all that is happening in the organization through the intranet, or bulletin boards. News, events, celebrations, and any upcoming activities that need to be broadcasted across the organization, it is the task of HR.

Facilitator

The HR Manager facilitates activities across the organization. From the need of arranging a conference, scheduling employees for training, travel arrangements for the senior management, making resources available, to even celebrating employee birthdays is all a task of the HR.

HR also facilitates various employee engagement activities and planning indoor and outdoor programs.

Spokesperson

The HR plays an integral role as a spokesperson when conveying the employee requests and challenges to the management and vice-versa. However, they have a very crucial role in communicating right without any malice or prejudice.  This quality inherently establishes employee trust in HR.

Advisory 

As an advisory, HR comes to counsel on a variety of issues including legal, academic, operational, and otherwise. The advisory role also extends in case of conflict management, grievance redressal, motivational and mental aspects.

Trendsetter

How would HR be trendsetters?

HR Managers are the core strategists in an organization and they can bring to affect a lot of first-time initiatives that will be trendsetting experiences. Ideally- 

  • By devising great policies and procedures that are instrumental in happy employees and lesser attrition.
  • Flexible working conditions like we see today. Work from home facilities that are comfortable and safe, and not every organization practices.
  • By engaging in practices that no other organization has aimed yet.
  • By extending an arm of the HR operations towards innovative practices in employee engagement and conflict redressals.
  • By benchmarking the company in the industry with the best salary packages.
  • Driving the company's vision and mission very strategically through its employees.
  • Regulating and leveraging resources towards a better and futuristic development of the company.
  • The people-first approach that speaks of the company’s and the HR value system.

Creator

HR Managers especially in an SME or a larger organization have at any point in time, be creative in their approaches. Identifying the gap in the systems, they should be able to introduce innovative approaches to reduce friction and at the same time create alternate and efficient ways of problem-solving. 

Devising policies that are holistically prepared for the development of the organization in terms of welfare activities, conducive working conditions, legally compliant norms, and motivationally right towards the retention of employees.

Welfare & Development

Employee welfare is an equation that needs to be well established to garner the employee interest and keep them performing.

Gone are the days when welfare activities were restricted to transport, canteen, library, club membership, but today has transitioned to indoor and outdoor events, employee get-togethers, tickets to movies and sports, birthday celebrations, traditional or festival celebrations, coupons for shopping and a host of other activities.

In today’s pandemic scenario, we are seeing HR is still instrumental in conducting training, but online, to ensure that the learning process remains intact for the employees.

At the same time, HR also needs to keep a keen eye on the developmental aspect of an employee. I do not mean the development in terms of company goals, skills, and specializations, but in the landscape of the company's harmony, mental health, and needs.

Today the HR's role is not just restricted to scheduling an employee for training but also aligning the employee to certain counseling if need be.

Counselor

An HR manager is an internal counselor and comes to guide on problems relating to health, family, finances, social, cultural, academics, and many more.

Often HR managers act as motivational counselors seeing that the employees are performing well. This also involves counseling employees on destressing.

The current scenario has posed many situations where employees need more mental counseling than skill-based or technical. The reason is the sudden change in lifestyle, fear of the looming pandemic, and the threat of losing a job or seeing a near one losing a job. All these tricky and vulnerable situations need to be dealt with in finesse and to keep the employee motivated at all times is the role of today’s HR.

The HR manager kind of reads and understands every employees' pulse and comes to suggest if there is a need for external and specialist counseling.

Negotiator

This is one of the prime qualities of an HR manager, and that proves why they are based at the core of any organization? We all can openly claim that HR managers are astute negotiators.

An HR person has to deal with numerous vendors associated with the company and negotiate with them timely on the right pricing and quality standards. It is a skill they bring to register vendors and seamlessly get their services available to the entire organization.

HR managers are also acute negotiators when dealing with the management or the employees in getting sanctions or getting a policy implemented and abided to respectively.

Their negotiation craftsmanship is evident in salary negotiations and we all must have dealt with at least one HR manager who negotiated hard on the salary. Can you deny this?

However, other than these seamless activities, the conventional responsibilities of an HR Manager include- 

  • Attracting Talent
  • Hiring Resources

It is with careful planning and positioning of the company that the HR managers can attract candidates and recruit them.

Retention

An HR evaluates in advance and formulates means to employee retention. They often ask themselves- 

  • Why would an employee continue to work for their organization for years together?
  • What is the motivation the organization is creating at retaining the employees?
  • How are the organization and policies different from the competitors?

Retention is an interdependent situation between the employee and employer that is well balanced by the HR. Because, attracting talent and recruiting them is important, but establishing the right culture and practices to be able to retain talent is equally important. Companies that can engage employees in a conducive working environment, challenging assignments, well-crafted policies and procedures, and industry salary benchmarks can retain employees, and this again is strategic planning of the HR.

  • In SME's, retention is one aspect of human resource that needs to be built by the HR managers towards improving performances and achieving goals. 
  • In case of conflicts, solutions should be offered after investigations and thorough checks, avoiding any chances of prejudice. 
  • Policies and procedures should be crafted for conflict management as well. This ensures a non-judgmental approach to different issues.

Legal Knowledge

I am sure no organization is devoid of legal battles. 

In budding SMEs, it is very imperative to have a legal specialization in HR, to be able to set practices and resolve human resource issues in the organization. Legal know-how is crucial in the backdrop of employment laws. In situations like sexual harassment, disciplinary actions should be well documented and circulated in the organization.

And then, you must have heard the cliched phrase - HR is Diplomatic!!

The role of HR is to align the management's vision, mission, goals, and expectations and make the employees responsive and responsible for results. In doing this, the HR is a representative of both the management and the employees. The employees too because they have to make the employees perform to the management's mission, by maintaining their morale and keeping them motivated. HR is not only the spokesperson but also the peacemaker in this situation and therefore, has to work diplomatically in the interest of both the organization and its employees.

In the changing times, HR has come to realign the organizational structure and development towards an ecosystem that is conducive to the employees. HR is also been instrumental in building robust systems and processes that are sensitive to the human force as well as promising effective results. 

In the current scenario and future, what might come as constant support to the HR managers is a good HRMS system that is promising of time management and efficiency. Because the role of an HR is not just restricted to data management and evaluation as we have seen. HR software can ideally bring data management as an easy and viable way to operate around. Such that, HR gets a lot of time to concentrate on the different and important aspects that come as a blessing in disguise to every organization. An HRMS can also help store data on the cloud system that is accessible, irrespective of location.

In the scenario of multiple choices to the employees, the HR function outweighs the company's strength and conviction in garnering its human resource. At the same time, and evolved HR can bring a sea of change in an organization, no matter how big or small.


Written by
Vaibhav
Vaibhav is a content writer at sumHR. A passionate writer with a fair understanding in copy writing and SEO.
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