3 lessons HR professionals learned from 2020

I’m sure we can all agree that 2020 will go down in history and that we have all learned to expect the unexpected, that’s for sure! As the HR professionals at PES, Cathy Monaghan, Pam Rawlings and I have put our heads together, to come up with our top three key lessons; learned from the years behind, for the years ahead.

Lesson 1 – Invest in wellbeing

You have probably heard the word ‘wellbeing’ mentioned many times throughout this pandemic, and by now, it’s well documented that poor mental health takes its toll on productivity and the cost of attracting and retaining employees.

The challenges of isolation, financial stress due to reduced pay or furlough, home working and home schooling highlights the variety of pressures your people might be experiencing.  If this is the case, you are well advised (if you are not already doing this) to recognise stress and mental health as key issues and take action to minimise. For example, offering access to counselling services through an Employee Assistance Programme, openly addressing the issues that employees may have in the work or home environment and being more ‘flexible’ in how the role is delivered.

Also, ensure all managers are trained to spot the signs of poor mental health, with a clear path of how to improve and maintain good mental health in the workplace. It’s not as costly as you may think to train your people and it could hugely benefit a business in the long run, with challenges like absenteeism and long term sick being minimised.

Lesson 2 – Homeworking is here to stay

If we could have a £1 for every time an employer with office based staff told us pre-COVID that ‘home-working just won’t work for us’, the 3 of us would be in the Bahamas for most of the year! COVID struck and an awful lot of desk-based organisations had no choice but to work from home during the numerous lockdowns, many of which have done so successfully despite a huge effort.

Whilst the roll out of the vaccines is music to our ears, we are nevertheless experiencing our third lockdown; some businesses will want, and need, to keep their strict remote working policies until the worst of the pandemic is over. The way people now communicate, work together, and stay productive has changed drastically, due to the technology and digital tools at our disposal.

But remember, if someone is not performing whilst working at home, this is about performance, not their work location, and you could apply more stringent measures to monitor their output.

Lesson 3 – Flexibility is key, across the board

We all know there are undoubted benefits to flexible working, there is also a wide range of research for how flexibility can support inclusion, help to reduce the gender pay gap, support sustainability initiatives, attract and retain talented individuals, increase productivity, and support wellbeing.

Employers can encourage flexible working by making, promoting, and publicising it within their businesses and externally. For example (as recommended by the Task Force) by advertising jobs, whatever the level or pay grade, with the strapline ‘Happy to talk flexible working’.

As well as fulfilling your statutory obligations, there’s nothing to stop you making informal arrangements with employees around their working hours until this pandemic is over. For example, you could let a parent work in the evenings or reduce their hours/pay to enable them to home-school during the day

The only thing to watch out for is that you treat everyone consistently – and bear in mind that if you let one person do this, you can’t easily refuse another.

About the author

Lisa Trent is our HR guru

There really isn’t very much to do with people that she doesn’t know about! Whether it’s furloughing or people management, she’s on hand to help, but also listen.


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