This is a reset for HR, not a restart

12 October 2020 - Reading time: 6 Minutes

HR management

Whether big or small, any restart will be an opportunity to fix a few things. However, a reset is much more than that – it’s an incredible catalyst.

Any reset motivates you to get things done, drop habits and processes that were not serving you and form new habits that will work better. When you overlay that opportunity on an HR profession that has spent most of this new millennium trying to rediscover its purpose, you realise our profession will never get an opportunity like this again.

More importantly if we fail to take advantage of this opportunity, we may be hammering the final nails in the Strategic HR coffin. As reported some time ago “HR may not yet be drinking in the last chance saloon they are drinking in the wine bar next door.”

Getting ready for the reset

I accept many may disagree and others may feel my prediction too severe, and I would agree we have missed other opportunities in the last twenty years and survived. The difference this time is that everyone else is ready for something new.

While some HR departments have spent the lockdown tinkering with home working policies and flexible working regulations our colleagues in line management, other function such as procurement, IT, and finance have cleared their desks and started again. They are not fiddling at the edges of the old order; they are building from the bottom up. HR leaders, take note.

You do not need a home working policy if half your workforce work from home, you need an office communication plan. You do not need a ten-page performance management form even if it is online, you need effective employee engagement.

A new era for strategic HR

As business leaders rethink the purpose of work, as well as how and where work gets done in a post-pandemic world, HR cannot sit back waiting for decisions to be made by others. They need to be at the table balancing the needs of the organisation and the workforce. They can show how a strategic HR contribution can support a workforce that is keen to embrace remote working in ever increasing numbers, whilst ensuring management finally discovers how to best manage and engage an increasingly distributed workforce.

Whilst born out of tragedy and necessity, these shifts in how work will be done in the future has given many business leaders a chance to throw away the old employment playbook and I can predict they will do this in large numbers. Of course, there are many jobs that will still need to be location based, but even these will be significantly affected by a tsunami of change to management style and approach. It will become HR’s single most important role in this reset to ensure that whatever emerges from the pandemic that it brings new models of working and a new workforce strategy that is sustainably engaged, inclusive, diverse and resilient.

Too many times has HR has failed to recognise our potential fresh starts, we have spent too long worrying about title changes, and the hairbrained ideas of a few so-called HR Experts causing us to gloss over opportunities that could otherwise have been a force for good in our workplaces. No one cares how many legs are on the HR Relationship Manager stool. Let’s not do it again with this reset.

About Graham White, guest author

As an HR Director of several significant organisations in both the private and public sector, Graham has a 30-year track record of delivering organisational success. Now Semi Retired he is enjoying motivational speaking, Senior Executive Coaching and some very interesting and rewarding HR consultancy challenges. Visit Graham's LinkedIn profile here.

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