The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on business practices worldwide, and human resources (HR) departments are at the heart of employers’ responses. COVID-19 is transforming HR, and to be successful, your team needs to be ready for the changes that are on the horizon.
HR departments have been playing a leading role during the COVID pandemic. They have had to deal with the challenges of supporting remote employees and integrating emergency government policies related to sick leave and quarantining. The HR role will continue to change in the aftermath of this virus – the main question is, how?
This guide looks at the HR role during the COVID pandemic, assesses critical challenges for HR departments, and considers possible upcoming changes in the wake of the pandemic.
HR Challenges in Dealing With COVID-19
Efforts to “flatten the curve” that represented coronavirus infections led to business closures across the country. Many people had to quarantine, and others became ill or needed to take time off work to care for family members or children who were not in school. These realities forced HR departments to implement sudden policy changes, and they continue to face the following types of challenges:
Auditing and Registering for State Unemployment Insurance (SUI)
Many businesses have decided to extend remote work arrangements to their employees. This is a beautiful thing, but rest assure each state is going to want to collect its due share of taxes. It's your obligation as an employer to ensure your organization maintains compliance with all state employment and tax laws. This can be tricky because employees may think remote work gives them carte blanche to work wherever they choose without disclosing their location to you their employer.
An employee who is terminated and files for unemployment insurance in a state in which you are not registered can create serious problems. Take a proactive stance and conduct an audit of your employee's live-in work-in location, update your records and be sure to file for SUI where you need to.
Monitoring and Enforcing Attendance
Monitoring a remote workforce can be challenging. You cannot simply look at time clock records and walk through the office to ensure everyone stays on task. You need to develop policies or invest in tech that allows you to monitor and enforce employee attendance, regardless of where your team is located.
Recruiting for New Positions
Existing employees have had their jobs change significantly, making recruiting even more difficult for HR teams. They must develop new job descriptions representing the changing roles of workers in their business. They may also need to establish policies that allow them to recruit and interview candidates remotely.
Adjusting Benefits and Compensation
The HR role during COVID-19 also requires many HR professionals to adjust the benefits and compensation packages for many employees. Some full-time employees have gone part-time, others have shifted to flexible schedules, and still others have changed from W2 to 1099-employees.
Dealing With Government Mandates
The COVID-19 relief packages included many new rules. Businesses with more than a certain number of employees were forced to provide employees with paid time off (PTO) if they were diagnosed with the virus or exposed to it. The HR role has been to develop these policies quickly to ensure their employers are compliant with the regulations.
HR departments have had to deal with more than just rapid-fire operational changes and new government regulations. They have also had to face the challenges of dealing with employees who are stretched thin as they deal with personal illnesses, financial woes, children out of school, and other challenges of the COVID-19 era.
How COVID-19 Will Continue Transforming HR in the Future
Many of the challenges related to COVID-19 were temporary, but some changes are likely to become permanent in the post-pandemic world. This catastrophe also underscored the need for businesses to be prepared for similar types of health crises in the future, and by extension, the HR role needs to be proactive. Here are some of the challenges HR teams need to be ready to face:
Developing More Emotional-Health Resources
The COVID-19 pandemic created an uptick in mental health issues, with nearly 40% of Americans reporting heightened mental health concerns just a few months into the pandemic. HR departments must safeguard the health of their teams by investing in mental health resources and teaching employees how to access them. The HR role should consist of developing a formal process of regularly checking in with employees, whether they are working remotely or in person.
Nurturing Corporate Culture
Your corporate culture influences your business’s mission statement and creates your organization’s identity, but it also gives your employees purpose. Nurturing corporate culture is always challenging, but it’s even more difficult with remote teams. The HR role should focus on team-building events, webinars, training sessions, collaboration tools, and communication methods that help foster corporate culture.
HR needs to be proactive about engaging teams. Remote employees need to have tools and processes that allow them to work as teams, and in-person employees also need to be involved. Engagement can be challenging when people are worried about their health, the economy, their families, and other concerns.
Engagement is critical, and research indicates that engaged teams are more productive and healthier. They are also more likely to stay with their companies, and they offer better customer service than unengaged workers.
Developing Employee Contracts That Address COVID-19
The HR role during and after COVID also involves creating employment contracts that reflect this new reality. Businesses may not want to promise full-time hours to employees if they are worried about being forced to shut down, for instance. They may also need to change their sick-leave policies or offer more flexible paid time off (PTO).
Performing Additional Training
HR departments may need to schedule additional training opportunities to help employees deal with new COVID-related rules. Some warehouse and manufacturing facilities, for example, have their employees using devices that track their distance from each other so they can maintain social distancing and assess possible exposures if someone gets sick. Adopting these types of new tools and workflows requires HR involvement and training.
COVID-19 has been transforming HR for over a year, and businesses that are still open have already successfully juggled numerous challenges. The job is not done, though. COVID-19 has not gone away, and analysts anticipate similar health crises in the future. HR departments need to be proactive about how they’re going to face this new reality, and they need to invest in resources to help themselves.
Get HR Support From an HCM Expert
HR departments have had a year of almost unimaginable challenges, and many need help navigating the issues. Ignite HCM Consulting and Services has assembled a team with more than 300 years of combined experience in the ADP community, and we have been helping HR departments with payroll and other issues since 1985.
We have the ADP expertise and connections to help companies adjust to the new HR role forced by the pandemic. Contact us today for help with your payroll management and HR optimization needs.