The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is forcing companies all over the world to change the way they operate, and one of the areas this is most apparent is in the HR department. With the effect the pandemic is having on everyone, and the fact that we’re all being affected in different ways, HR is being called on to do more than ever before. Instead of mainly being expected to perform administrative tasks, HR personnel are increasingly being relied upon to assist management at a strategic level – particularly as it pertains to decisions regarding employees.

Here a few of the ways in which the role of HR personnel is evolving and how their influence and importance could continue to grow going forward.

Continued emphasis on employee mental health

Employee mental health has become more of a focus in recent years and is one of the main areas which HR will become more involved in. HR personnel are already accustomed to discussing personal matters with company employees, including disciplinary procedures, conflict resolution, listening to their grievances, and even their physical health – all of which could be related to their state of mind. Consequently, they’re in a prime position to observe an employee’s mental health and enquire as to how they’re feeling. They can then make recommendations for how the company can best support the affected employee. How a company attempts to safeguard its staff’ mental wellness, and how high a priority they place on it, has a huge effect on its overall culture. This means that HR will have increasing influence on how a company behaves and operates.

Now, while we all struggle with our mental health from time to time, our current circumstances mean that companies have to particularly vigilant. Firstly, employees are having to work remotely, which presents its own set of challenges. Some employees, for instance, may struggle with the isolation of working from home. Others might suffer from being unable to successfully separate home and work life.

Secondly, with there being more uncertainty about what the immediate future holds, everyone is grappling with increased levels of general stress and anxiety to some degree. Some employees, however, are more susceptible to this than others – and are in particular need of support from HR and management.       

A larger role in training and professional development

One of the unfortunate consequences of the pandemic is that many companies will be forced to streamline their workforce in order to survive. However, even those companies that don’t have to let anyone go will still have make as efficient use of their staff as possible to remain competitive. As a result, some employees may need to learn or bolster a skill that was held by someone who had to be let go. Similarly, employees may be asked to add to their skill set, instead of the company hiring an additional employee with the required competency.

HR will play a role in staff professional development: helping management to identify which employees are the best candidates for professional development and arranging the necessary training for them.

Less involvement in day-to-day admin tasks for HR

Subsequently, if HR is to play a larger role in strategic decisions and there’s going to be a trade-off somewhere. The best option for achieving this is to examine their most common and time-consuming administrative tasks to see which can be streamlined – or, better yet, automated. One of the main areas businesses are finding they’re able to do this is in the area of leave management, such as booking annual leave and handling employee absences, along with the varying amounts of admin each involves. A digital absence management system, on the other hand, automates many of the tasks typically carried out by HR each day, freeing up significant amounts of time that they can spend on work that’s far more valuable to your company.