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If the events of the last year have given your business a bumpy ride, it’s time to make your HR journey go more smoothly.

Many small businesses don’t have human resources departments or even a dedicated HR representative. When companies have a modest number of employees, it’s not uncommon for most HR-related duties to be taken on by office administrators or managers.

This may have worked perfectly well for decades but, as with so many other areas of business life, the Covid-19 pandemic has turned the old way of managing HR on its head.

Suddenly, the types of issues that might only have emerged on rare occasions and with very few employees – health and safety challenges in the workplace, long-term sickness, furlough, temporary layoffs, mental health concerns, significant changes to working hours or practices, to name just a few – have been affecting not only large numbers of businesses but also entire workforces within those businesses.

For teams that had previously managed without dedicated, trained HR professionals on board, taking care of the human beings on the payroll became a whole lot more complicated when Covid-19 arrived on our shores!

Without question, all the companies we’ve worked with have approached these challenges with integrity, compassion and a total commitment to doing the right thing by their employees during very difficult times. However, the pandemic has shone a spotlight on the areas where HR provision – either in terms of technical knowledge, people management skills or both – could do with improvement.

According to a 2020 US survey by Paychex*, 48% of employees had reported an issue to their HR departments since the pandemic began. More than half of HR managers said the number of issues being reported had increased during the Covid-19 crisis.

Of these reports, the most common type were employee disputes (52.3%) followed by employee benefits (45.6%), workplace safety issues and being denied time off (both 31.3%).

What expectations do people have of their HR departments?

In terms of the expectations that people had of their HR departments, ensuring that everyone had everything they needed to work effectively from home was the number one requirement. Next in line were the skills to manage employee benefits, promote the employee work-life balance, hire staff well and build an inclusive workplace.

From knowing how to recruit new talent remotely for the first time, to managing performance and motivating employees in extraordinary circumstances, the pandemic has thrown up new challenges that cannot be treated lightly.

Managing absences and grievances may have become a more complex – or simply more common – task for your managers during the last year. In addition, having experienced wonderful levels of loyalty and dedication from their staff during the pandemic, many businesses want to reward this with an even greater focus on good management and meaningful career progression plans.

It’s good to see businesses wanting to enhance their HR skills and knowhow, not least so that they can be better prepared for future pandemics and other crises. Perhaps that means taking on an HR professional if the size of your team warrants it, or investing in some HR skills training for managers.

You and your employees are all in this together, for both the highs and the lows. So, why not ditch the white knuckle ordeal of poor HR and just enjoy the ride?

*Source –

Would you like to improve your HR knowledge and skills?

Our HR courses cover everything from the recruitment and interview process to staff psychology to fostering diversity and equality in the workplace. Each one aims to improve both skills and ideals, empowering delegates to improve their lives and their workplaces. If you run a course in-house, you'll also benefit from tailor made content designed around the needs of your business and team.

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Mark Fryer

26th May 2021

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