Human resources faced many new challenges due to the impact of COVID-19. With massive layoffs, a global crisis, mental health crises, and an economic downturn, HR professionals had to find ways to quickly solve problems to ensure the health and wellness of their employees.
Unfortunately, much of the aftermath stuck around. Here are the most significant challenges HR currently faces.
1. Employee duress
All U.S. states had some form of restrictions during the height of the pandemic that forced many businesses to lay off employees to save money.
Other companies could easily shift to a remote work setting and allow their employees to continue earning a living while working from a home office.
However, if a company had never done remote work before, it was up to HR to keep the workforce connected. Additionally, many employees felt unsure of the future and were worried about job security.
Overall, employees’ mental health exponentially dropped due to social distancing and a lack of job security. While employers were able to ensure their employees stayed healthy by having them follow CDC guidelines, such as wearing a mask, they could not help the mental health of their employees because they had no guidelines.
The mental health impact of COVID-19 will likely last longer than any physical health impact.
During the pandemic, employees were stressed for many reasons. Not only could they not see their families, but they may not have been able to work and earn money, even if they hadn’t been laid off.
Others felt stress due to the abrupt shift to work from home while having to deal with their children and spouses constantly being around.
Recently, HR professionals took steps to engage employees and foster better social interaction while providing mental health benefits to help them deal with the stress of the pandemic.
During the pandemic, many employees were laid off as businesses did everything they could to save money and stay above water.
In many cases, layoffs and downsizing are a response to an uncertain future, and businesses need to take precautions. However, laying off employees is one of the most difficult tasks HR professionals face because the employees that they’re laying off haven’t done anything to deserve it.
In addition, layoffs impact company morale, making it difficult for HR professionals to handle the overall employee dissatisfaction while laying off non-essential personnel during difficult times.
Before companies can start laying people off, HR professionals plan, manage and implement processes to ensure they’re following the law. For example, in the case of the pandemic, HR departments had to develop a transparent process to determine which employees could continue to work and which would be laid off.
Recently, we have seen a shift in HR practices to be more inclusive, with more people calling for social justice.
In the past, many companies began making commitments to local communities and equitable treatment of job candidates and employees. The challenge for many HR professionals now is making those promises become a reality with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs.
Luckily, building a more inclusive workplace is easy for HR professionals looking past skin color and sexual orientation to find the best employees for open positions.
They can also adopt new technology to find and recruit top talent.
4. Employee benefits
Many employees have changed jobs and career paths in the last year because of the pandemic. After being laid off, many people were forced to find new jobs with companies that understood their needs.
Employee benefits have always been a top priority for HR professionals. Benefits are vital in helping companies attract and retain top talent.
While many small businesses can’t offer a ton of unique benefits to set them apart from the competition, they can offer more flexibility in the workplace to ensure their employees have a better work-life balance.
Other companies can talk to their employees about the types of benefits they’d like, such as crypto payroll, pet insurance, and child care.
5. Improving productivity
While HR professionals manage the people within a company, their main goal should be to help the business succeed.
Operational efficiency became one of the most significant problems for companies during the pandemic, and many were able to shift their operations to improve upon them during the pandemic.
HR professionals were tasked with finding ways to make the business more efficient to save money while making more revenue during a time of economic crisis.
Not only that, but the only way for a business to become and remain productive is to help employees become more productive, whether they’re working from the office or not.
More HR professionals than ever researched tools to help increase efficiency and productivity, including project management tools to streamline collaboration.
6. Remote work
We’ve already talked about the shift to remote work a bit, but that may have been one of the current challenges for HR professionals today.
In many cases, businesses had never had a remote work policy or allowed employees to work from the comfort of their own homes. However, the pandemic forced businesses to look at remote work differently.
After all, if you wanted your business to continue running, you needed employees to work outside of the office.
Remote work became one of the hottest HR topics. Unfortunately, most companies panicked and asked their employees to work from home without having a policy or the right technology in place. HR professionals were left scrambling to ensure there was a process for everyone to follow to ensure they were getting their work done every day and they had the right technology to help them succeed.
Luckily, many businesses learned about the benefits of allowing their employees to work from home with more flexibility, including increased employee satisfaction and productivity. HR professionals developed policies that made expectations clear for remote workers as the year went on.
For example, many made an addendum to employee handbooks stating the times they should be online and working, what communication tools to use, and overall what was expected of employees.
7. Training and development
While many will undergo training when they are first hired, others may not continue with training or find ways to grow their skills.
When you are first hired, you will most likely have a training session with your boss to make sure you understand the role you are taking on and doing it right. However, there tends to be no more training sessions for employees after your training is done.
While training for a new role is essential, a company must continue to find ways to keep their employees educated and trained on top skills and platforms.
For example, a marketing agency should ensure there is training every year or month to go over excel tips, social media platforms, marketing trends, and more. This will ensure all of their employees are polished and specialized in the latest technology or skills.
8. Retaining talent
Another challenge every company faces is retaining talent.
When you are recruiting top talent, you tend to do whatever is possible to have the best talent on your team. Unfortunately, that devotion to your top talent can suddenly drift once they’re hired.
Some employees may express that once they were hired they felt as though nobody continued to devote time to them, this can be seen as check-ins, offering a helping hand, and more.
Therefore, a company should always find time to assess their employees and recognize them. This can be seen as giving them a shoutout, bonus, flexible PTO, or flexible hours.
By remaining attentive to your top talent and making them feel recognized and appreciated, they are more likely to stay with your company or feel more open to discussing ways to make them feel appreciated.
Diversity is a challenge many companies are starting to take head-on. Companies should aim to have a workplace filled with diversity and people of all backgrounds.
These diverse backgrounds can be seen as ethnicity, gender, faith, and more. By staying proactive with these diverse backgrounds, your company can learn more about each other.
Furthermore, if your company is diverse, you should create specific clubs or chats for each group. This will help your employees meet others with similar interests or know who to reach out to learn more from.
Many employees thrive off of diverse company culture and within the job search find it to be highly attractive.
10. Accepting and making changes
Lastly, a challenge many HR professionals face is putting their foot down to make or accept change.
For example, with the pandemic, HR departments had to quickly adapt to his and find ways to make adjustments for their employees. Some changes they had to make were remote work, remote hiring, remote training, and even getting rid of their physical office.
If an HR department is slow to make changes, it may appear as though they do not want to implement the change and could leave employees feeling frustrated or confused.
If your employees see other companies making changes but nothing is being done to yours, it may make them want to look at other companies to work for, specifically ones that are quick on their feet with change.
Not only that, but if employees are discussing changes or challenges they are facing, and HR is not doing anything to combat the problem, you will have unhappy employees and lower productivity.
For that reason, you must listen to your employees and adapt to changes that are best suited for you and your company.
Lately, these years have been difficult for businesses and HR professionals. However, by quickly adapting, HR departments can ensure the happiness and success of their employees to improve work-life balance, increase productivity, and enhance overall business performance.
Matt Casadona has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, with a concentration in Marketing and a minor in Psychology. Matt is passionate about marketing and business strategy and enjoys San Diego life, traveling, and music.