Four strategic areas that HR should focus on right now

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Four strategic areas that HR should focus on right now
David Banaghan
6 minute read
The Future of Work

The major focus for businesses that have remained open over the last few months has been on remote working, normal business practices continuing as much as possible and ensuring company culture remains at the forefront.

The responsibility of ensuring this happened fell in large part in the hands of HR. Unfortunately, for many companies and HR teams, they also had the responsibility of furloughing employees, making redundancies or letting employees go. 

Now that the dust has started to settle there is an opportunity to focus on the areas that were further down the priority line but have become increasingly important for when a more normal work resumes. We look at 4 areas that HR should focus on now that will stand to you in the short and long term. 

Occupop Blog - Top HR Priorities 2020

Top HR priorities

1. Learning & Development 

There are two main reasons to give this area focus now: to redeploy current employees to cover roles that can’t be filled and to give your employees a sense of investment into their future. 

If you are in a company that has been financially hit by the pandemic and you are left without the resources to refill roles previously held, it is a very good opportunity to look at the workforce you have and the opportunities to create new roles or responsibilities. Carry out an audit on the skill sets you need and look at your employees’ records: their CVs, progression plans, and current learning & development programmes. Meet with applicable employees and should they be interested in undertaking new roles or responsibilities, set out a learning & development structure for them to follow. It may be something more simple like taking an online course to upskill in a certain area that they already work in i.e. a marketing executive learning about managing social media advertising, but it might be more intensive and will take some time, that’s why it is important to start now. 

Learning & development also has the added advantage of engaging and ultimately retaining employees due to the investment and learning capabilities you are offering. However, there is a division of thought on learning. According to a Pluralsight report, companies generally offer a "one-size-fits-all" solution and lean towards group conferences, bootcamps and online or in-person courses where employees, on average, prefer self-paced courses, but only half of organisations offer this. This current working situation has opened up the opportunity to normalise ongoing and self-paced L&D. Work with team leaders and ensure they are developing L&D plans with their teams, encouraging them to take part in more webinars, online conferences and self-paced courses. 

2. Job descriptions 

This is another area that many companies approach with a one-size-fits-all mentality. When you are caught up in the day to day hiring and you have many jobs to post, it is understandably easier to keep to the same model or rehash old job descriptions for the same role. But this role may have changed in light of Coronavirus or the job description didn’t accurately reflect what is entailed in the role. There must be a holistic approach taken to job descriptions. Of course, some areas are standard i.e. company values, EVP, general benefits but take this time to speak with individual teams and hiring managers and create an accurate description of what you are looking for when you are hiring. This will stand to you from a candidate quality perspective. 

We recently presented on this subject covering what candidates actually want to know before applying, offering helpful tips on creating job descriptions and methods HR teams can utilise to make the process more efficient and successful. Watch this here.

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3. Employee well-being

Employee well-being has been a topical subject for quite some time but there still seems to be a lack of investment by many companies in the importance of this area. Employee well-being is more relevant than ever due to physical distance from the workplace for many and the circumstances of Coronavirus. People are feeling anxious about the unknown health implications, risks of being in the workplace, the financial stress and the removal of daily personal interactions with colleagues, friends and family. This is outside of the already prevalent workplace stress and the raise of ill mental health. The WHO estimated that 1 in 4 adults will suffer from mental ill-health during their life, with the problem at work being exacerbated by the fact that 33% of people don't feel comfortable speaking to their manager about ill mental health.

Creating a well-rounded, considered well-being strategy and wellness programme now is vital. In the immediate short term, have conversations and address employees anxieties, assisting them as much as possible. For example, more flexible working arrangements until childcare services resume. In the long term, a robust strategy will pay off from a retention and talent attraction perspective, with 67% of employees who work for organisations with successful wellness programmes stating they like their jobs more and are more likely to recommend their employer to others (Deloitte Human Capitals Trend Report 2018). 

Want tips on creating this strategy? We previously wrote a blog on creating a well-being strategy that can be found here. 

Occupop Blog - Top HR priorities - employer brand

4. Employer brand 

Now is an excellent time to look at your employer brand; how are you perceived by your employees, potential candidates and how do you compare to your competition? There is an opportunity from this situation for companies to reposition or establish a winning employer brand and attract top talent. A larger talent pool will exist after the pandemic due to staff being let go, companies now not being restricted by geographical location for talent and because companies failed their employees during COVID-19 and have permanently damaged their reputation by both employees and consumers. 

We recently presented on this topic, looking at how companies can reposition their employer brand to attract top talent post-COVID-19. We discuss the importance of a good employer brand and easy ways to start implementing a plan today. Watch this here. 

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Summary Points

Top priorities for HR

  1. Learning & Development: There are two main reasons to give this area focus now: to redeploy current employees to cover roles that can’t be filled and to give your employees a sense of investment into their future. 
  2. Job descriptions: There must be a holistic approach taken to job descriptions. Of course, some areas are standard i.e. company values, EVP, general benefits but take this time to speak with individual teams and hiring managers and create an accurate description of what you are looking for when you are hiring. This will stand to you from a candidate quality perspective. 
  3. Employee well-being: Employee well-being is more relevant than ever due to physical distance from the workplace for many and the circumstances of Coronavirus. People are feeling anxious about the unknown health implications, risks of being in the workplace, the financial stress and the removal of daily personal interactions with colleagues, friends and family.
  4. Employer brand: There is an opportunity from this situation for companies to reposition or establish a winning employer brand and attract top talent. A larger talent pool will exist after the pandemic due to staff being let go, companies now not being restricted by geographical location for talent and because companies failed their employees during COVID-19
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