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Can HR Still Be Human From a Distance?

Matt Bernot
August 17, 2020
6 min read

In this new socially distanced work environment, we’ve all learned a lot about how we work. Drafting emails, creating spreadsheets, and communicating with clients has transitioned relatively smoothly to the home office, albeit with a brief adjustment period. 

What about Human Resources? Along with sales and customer service, HR divisions are most responsible for serving people. They onboard new employees, share vital company policies, navigate tricky workplace issues, and even handle terminations. Done remotely, the most “human” parts of this crucial department are, at best, awkward. At worst, they’re dangerous. Goals of a remote HR division include emphasizing organization, efficiency, and—most of all—empathy. So what do HR professionals need to keep in mind as they continue to adapt to a remote environment?

HR Needs To Be More Human Than Ever

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The duties of HR professionals have shifted and expanded overnight. Making sure employees are able to access their health benefits is more crucial than ever. The same goes for ensuring timely paychecks. On top of meeting professional expectations, HR professionals have been tasked with the tall order of maintaining and cultivating a remote office culture to keep employees fresh and motivated.

While the pillars of HR professionals remain intact, their workload, methods, and need for additional support have increased exponentially. The focus of their work during this pandemic can be summed up simply: be a support system for the human needs of employees as they adapt to life in a remote office. 

Lisa Rowan, research vice president for HR, talent, and learning strategies at IDC, a Massachusetts based research firm, says in an article for SHRM that an “HR managers’ number one job right now is to keep people up-to-date, be reassuring and build trust.” When employees feel connected and cared for, their productivity will reach new heights.

Getting Organized Out of the Office

During any major transition, especially one of this magnitude, it can be easy to slip into a pattern of disorganization. As HR teams work to meet the ever-shifting needs of employees, their role is to create a well-organized infrastructure of collaboration and connectivity. Even without an office, it’s possible to have a centralized virtual location that employees can access each day.

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Maintaining a singular, fluid schedule of your employees’ hours, appointments, sick days, client visits, and whatever else fills their workday will cut down on wasted time. Everyone always appreciates a good “happy birthday” wish, too. 

Organized information is easily accessible information. When employees can’t simply walk down the hall to get answers on company policies, they’ll need a clear, centralized place to access documents.

Great Tech Breeds Great Talent

By now, we’ve certainly endured the struggles of the hiring process. Acquiring top talent has never been easy, let alone in the age of COVID-19. Most likely, a face-to-face interview has traditionally been the cornerstone of the hiring process. 

Hiring applicants who fit seamlessly into your company’s culture is crucial to the success of your business. It can certainly be tough to judge if someone is a good fit without being able to sit down with them in person. Being forced to deviate from the normal hiring process is scary, but hiring the wrong person is scarier

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In the age of remote hiring, being able to easily track the status of your applicants is essential. HR Teams can work on keeping all of your applicants’ pertinent documents (resume, cover letter, samples of work, etc.) in one, easily accessible place. This goes for documents such as tax paperwork and personal identification once they are hired, too.

Handling Difficult Decisions

As tough as it is to hire the right talent, it’s even tougher when the hand you’ve been dealt calls for a reduction in your employee headcount. HR departments have unfortunately been the bearers of bad news lately.

Strategic Planning

Since the onset of the pandemic, 76% of US companies have had to let employees go, with many not knowing whether they’d return. That’s a scary statistic. Layoffs are painful—and due to COVID-19—often out of your control. When it’s time to make these difficult decisions, it’s best to be concise and streamlined. 

But HR doesn’t have to make the process any more difficult than it already is. Make sure that sensitive information that now-former employees could access does not travel with them to their next job. That means being able to revoke access to data, both instantly and remotely.

Eyes On The Future

In today’s unstable business environment, Human Resources professionals can still be just that: resources for humans. By creating an efficient, effective, and organized virtual environment, HR teams can continue to prioritize the well-being of employees. Doing so requires the right tools, especially when you need to be prepared more quickly than usual.

Matt Bernot Headshot

Matt Bernot

Matt Bernot has spent the past eight years working in software, banking, and finance. He specializes in business technology solutions and teaching efficient processes to help organizations accomplish more. Matt is a huge fan of the Philadelphia Flyers and a father to a pair of incredibly goofy cats.