How can HR teams adapt to best support businesses in the next normal?

HR can play a crucial part in supporting all areas of business in our uncertain future, says Stephanie Kelly.

Since lockdown, we have witnessed a seismic shift in the way we work. Businesses have predominantly moved from the physical to the digital overnight, with remote working no longer a nice to have, but a must for those who can.

For HR teams, this sudden shift in the way we work has brought on new challenges never dealt with before at this scale. From managing employee productivity, engagement and development, to stabilising mental health and wellbeing, HR teams have been proactively tackling these issues, working tirelessly to develop a clear strategy that ticks off all areas of the business.

To truly be effective in their role and best support the business, HR teams need to proactively adjust and develop a new mindset that adapts to a new hybrid way of working – one that is both at home and in the workplace.

From recruitment and onboarding, through performance management to reporting and engagement, they need to adapt traditional HR processes, utilising technology that is designed to help employees wherever they are working. Only then will they be in the best position to move forward with confidence and thrive in the next normal.

Here are four key areas where HR teams need to proactively adapt measures, and harness technology so they can look forward with confidence.

Managing employee productivity and engagement

The idea of remote working sparked concern over whether or not employees could remain productive and engaged while working from their own home. But, lockdown has proven that both employee productivity and engagement is just as high outside of the workplace.

HR teams need to proactively adjust and develop a new mindset that adapts to a new hybrid way of working – one that is both at home and in the workplace.

However, this is something that still needs to be monitored closely, and businesses cannot solely rely on individuals to stay on track. They need support from their HR teams, who can work closely with line managers to ensure that steps are taken to maintain engagement and ensure productivity levels remain high.

For HR teams to adapt and manage this to the best of their ability, they should look to harness specialised HR software that creates a single source of truth for all HR processes – progression, development and engagement to name a few – as this will simplify how line managers manage their remote teams.

In this way, line managers can fully monitor workload and ensure that their team’s productivity and engagement levels are maintained to a satisfactory level.

This will also help them spot any signs of emotional distress, enabling them to help improve mental health and wellbeing. A recent survey by employment platform Monster found that 69% of employees are experiencing burnout while working from home which is affecting their productivity and engagement. HR teams need to manage this closely with line managers, and avoid the risk of work-related stress.

Building career development programmes

For HR teams, managing career development has never been a more difficult challenge. With many employees overdue pay raises or promotions because of the impact of the crisis, they are becoming frustrated.


But, while many businesses cannot provide timeframes as to when their staff’s career development will be back up and running, HR teams can offer specialised learning and development solutions that will point them in the right direction.

Whether this be third party organisations offering qualifications in specialised skill sets, or free online tutorials to help employees develop a chosen skill, there are many ways HR teams can adapt processes and mitigate the frustration of ambitious employees.

Stabilising employee health and wellbeing

The threat of redundancy, along with the separation from loved ones have all played a part in increasing levels of general anxiety for employees. And with wellbeing a complex topic by nature, with no ‘one size fits all’ solution, this duty of care falls onto the shoulders of HR teams.

However, while mental health and wellbeing has – and should – always be at the forefront of a business strategy, HR teams have only ever had to manage this in ‘normal’ working conditions. And this is very different to doing it remotely.

By harnessing technology, HR teams will be able to adapt and support employees to the best of their ability whilst at home. From hosting regular Zoom meetings for catch-up and workload discussions, to virtual wellbeing and fitness sessions, these initiatives mean employees can still interact with their colleagues, and maintain that level of human interaction we all miss.

Appointing mental health first aiders and creating support groups, are also good ideas that will really support those who are struggling.

Managing finances efficiently

The pandemic has led to many businesses re-evaluating their key functions, creating an ideal opportunity for HR teams to transform and improve their finance processes, especially their payroll.

For HR teams looking to adapt and evolve with the times, they need to combine payroll with their HR functions. By harnessing technology to proactively eliminate a lot of the process-heavy tasks, and integrating HR and payroll, it can not only streamline processes (saving time to be better spent elsewhere), but also play a huge role in employee engagement.

With enhanced data security, and easy access to payroll documentation whenever and wherever, there will be more consistency in managing finances and ensuring everyone is paid accurately and on time.

No one could have predicted the enormous effects COVID-19 has had on businesses across the UK, for all sectors. And one thing that is clear, is that anything is possible. It is therefore vital that HR teams are best equipped with the right technology, so they are able to adapt and evolve with the changing environment to survive – and thrive – in the next normal.


About the author

Stephanie Kelly is Chief People Officer at IRIS Software


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