Weekly Wrap: HR Rises in Crisis

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Mar 27, 2020
This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.

If you’re in HR, a comfortable middle ground for the profession has disappeared seemingly overnight. In conversations with HR leaders over the past few weeks, there are three significant crises taking place inside HR departments right now:

  1. Layoffs, furloughs, and tough discussions about business continuity
  2. A staffing shortage and burnout crisis taking place in essential industries
  3. Companies going virtual and navigating a new normal with employees and families at home

Along with the macroeconomic environment playing a role over all three of these challenges, it’s a wonder that anyone in this industry sleeps.

In these times, it’s easy to underestimate the role a reliable HR function plays in helping adjust their organization on the fly for these unprecedented challenges. Over the last decade, I’ve seen that attitude changing, and it might even be accelerating due to the pandemic. This week, The Economist wrote about the importance of chief people officers in times like these:

When the financial crisis rocked the business world in 2007-09, boardrooms turned to corporate finance chiefs. A good CFO could save a company; a bad one might bury it. The covid-19 pandemic presents a different challenge—and highlights the role of another corporate function, often unfairly dismissed as soft. Never before have more firms needed a hard-headed HR boss.

The duties of chief people officers, as human-resources heads are sometimes called, look critical right now. They must keep employees healthy; maintain their morale; oversee a vast remote-working experiment; and, as firms retrench, consider whether, when and how to lay workers off. Their in-trays are bulging.

Of course, you don’t have to tell us that. In a TLNT Research flash survey earlier this month of 300 HR and recruiting professionals from across the globe, we found HR and recruiting leaders and professionals who were confident and as prepared as they could be. They rated their organizations as very good in the following areas:

  • Keeping hiring staff and candidates safe (53%)
  • Ability to react to new news or changes in regards to COVID-19 (50%)
  • Communicating the latest pandemic information to hiring staff (46%)

More importantly, none of the combined poor/very poor ratings ever got above 10%.

These are trying times, but we may have never seen a more critical time to be delivering great HR for organizations. Take care of yourselves out there, and please reach out to us here if there are stories you’d like to see or share. We will continue supporting HR leaders rising up to face these new challenges.

Quick Hits

  • Bersin is doing some of the best writing of his life in this crisis. His blog is a must-read, but this post on the big reset is important. [Josh Bersin]
  • For the SMB HR leader, this may be one of the more comprehensive lists of COVID-19 work resources I’ve found. [Paycor]
  • Tom Starner has put together a great list of HR technology companies offering free access and apps. [HRExecutive]
  • PayScale released a state of the gender pay gap with a word of warning about the impact of COVID-19 on equality. [PayScale]
  • Textio recently raised another $7M [GeekWire] as well as integrations with Greenhouse and (soon) Workday. [VentureBeat]
  • Mya Systems raised nearly $19M to keep the recruiting conversation going with AI. [TechCrunch]
  • Two-thirds of companies find it difficult to align communication styles across geographies. It seems like it should be higher. [PRNewswire]
  • 85% of gig workers don’t fear going to work because of COVID-19. Hopefully, someone is giving them healthcare. [PeopleReady]
  • 34% of employees expect their jobs to be replaced in the next three years. We’ll see how that timeline holds up. [Mercer]
  • 55% of workers feel fairly or extremely insecure about their finances, and 43% feel fairly or extremely insecure about their jobs right now. [Jobcase]
  • 75% of employees have admitted to stealing from their employer. Do toilet paper and hand sanitizer count? [JW Surety]
  • Job board Monster is offering healthcare companies free job postings. [Monster]

Keeping Our Humanity

In a week that will see more than three million people hit the unemployment rolls in the U.S., we need to find ways to keep our humanity — even when not face-to-face. One company fell down hard so that you could learn from their mistake. Here’s a story in Protocol on how not to do a layoff via Zoom (H/T Steve Smith):

On Tuesday morning, around 100 TripActions customer support and customer success team members dialed into a Zoom call. Many joined the call happily smiling, expecting another team meeting or bonding activity amid the new work from home culture. Instead, according to people on the call Protocol spoke with, their boss launched into a spiel about the economy and coronavirus.

Then she announced that everyone on the call was being laid off.

“People were crying and people were panicking,” said one employee who was abruptly let go on the videoconference. “It was like 100 different videos of just chaos.”

For any HR leader who has gone through a poorly executed layoff, this might give you a bit of PTSD with a modern twist — not that it makes it any better.

When I first started writing about HR in the mid-2000s, one of the big stories was about Radio Shack e-mailing layoff notices. It was wholly unnecessary and crass, especially at a time when people weren’t universally using e-mail like they are today. But the situation today raises real issues on how you communicate some of the toughest decisions any leader has to execute when the number one piece of advice is, “Do it in person.”

If you’re looking for my advice, here you go: While I love technology like Zoom and Hangouts, I don’t want to be on video when I’m getting shown the door. Certainly not with dozens of people! Even if my preference isn’t everyone’s preference, a simple note such as, “Hey, I want to have an important conversation with you today. How would you like to chat?” can help make a bad situation less of a disaster.

The weekly wrap is where TLNT shares the stories that didn’t quite make it into a full post this week. We’ll also share links to some of our favorite things we read this week about HR, people development, the future of work, and more.

This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.