Managing Director The Learning Loop Ltd
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How HR groups are working together through the Covid-19 pandemic

During this challenging time, the HR community is coming together to solve each other’s people problems in a supportive and mutually beneficial way.

15th Jun 2020
Managing Director The Learning Loop Ltd
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View over businesslady shoulder seated at workplace desk look at computer screen where collage of many diverse people involved at video conference negotiations activity
iStock/fizkes

We all know that the HR sector is facing challenges it has never seen before. Those of us in HR leadership roles during the recession in the late noughties will recall the deep financial difficulties experienced by businesses and employees, but this really pales into insignificance when compared to the current crisis, particularly when you add the health and infection risk dimensions associated with Covid-19.

A new and unique online community of senior HR leaders has been created that is made up of both those who are working right now and those who are not currently working.

Without prior experience to draw upon, HR leaders are having to learn new skills in ‘real-time’ in order to adapt and survive. Equally, the impact on the economy is profound and potentially long lasting, particularly if we face the prospect of a financial recession.

HR leaders who are employed or on substantive interim assignments find themselves massively stretched, as many businesses struggle to remain financially viable and at the same time operationally sound. Other HR leaders face unemployment or long periods of down time as businesses hunker down, cancelling senior HR recruitment mandates and relying on more operational than strategic HR support at this time of crisis.

Challenges and opportunities

As with most situations, however, every challenge presents opportunities. There are a growing number of senior HR leaders ‘on the bench’ for whatever reason – either their permanent roles have been removed (and not replaced), or their interim or consulting contract has come to an end. With a shortage of available senior opportunities for them to pursue, many HR leaders are frustrated by inactivity and risk becoming stale and disengaged; but many have deep and highly relevant HR expertise that they wish to utilise and share.

Feedback to date shows that the workers group (and especially the ‘sponsor’) has gained real insights and implementable solutions to their challenges, at no cost and within a quick turnaround timescale.

Conversely, HR leaders who are still working are typically facing unprecedented difficulties and a heavy workload, trying to cope with the demands placed on them by their leadership, employees and by the government. They could really benefit from additional HR help, but do not have any available budget to bring in outside expertise.

One exciting solution that I have been involved with recently has been the creation of informal mutual support groups working together in a pro bono, philanthropic manner. A new and unique online community of senior HR leaders has been created that is made up of both those who are working right now and those who are not currently working.

A problem shared

These small, intimate groups of working HR leaders are actively sharing their main issues and challenges with their peers in order to gain fresh insights. Then the community works together to articulate their challenge in the form of a brief that can then be shared with a small informal group of non-working peers. In many cases the ‘sponsor’ (the owner of the business challenge) has the opportunity to brief the non-working group in person. The non-working group work collaboratively to devise solutions to the challenges, based on their experience and knowledge of the issues, and then present the solution back to the working group.

We have already seen a wide range of business challenges discussed and progressed. This has included the likes of:

  • How to develop an overall communications strategy that can be effectively deployed across an elderly care homes business, reflecting the busy operational nature of this essential service and the high degree of vulnerability of the residents.
  • Putting together a mergers and acquisition playbook to support HR leaders working with private equity firms to carry out acquisitions in a way that delivers at pace and maximises success.
  • Supporting a small but growing marketing automation platform business with their need to introduce a performance-based culture for the first time.

Feedback to date shows that the workers group (and especially the ‘sponsor’) has gained real insights and implementable solutions to their challenges, at no cost and within a quick turnaround timescale.

coronavirus hub

One such ‘sponsor’ from the working group, Mo Quadri, HR director at Oakland Care, said: “This group has been amazing for me, both from a personal and professional point of view. When you’re in the ‘hot seat’ you don’t always find the professional support you need; I’ve been able to share ideas in a comfortable and safe space and it’s been really important for me to be able to link in with other leaders who are sharing the same issues”.

Those in the non-working group are enjoying and benefiting from adding real value and staying engaged and current during their ‘down time.’ They are also able to reference their contribution on their CVs/LinkedIn profiles and can obtain references and endorsements from the ‘sponsors’ and from the organisers to enhance their profile in relation to potential new employment opportunities or client assignments.

Darrell Abbondanza, the former global HR director at Equifax, who is currently not working, added: “Cerebrally, this group has kept me very alert and connected to the business world and the ability to solve real time challenging business conundrums from a people/HR perspective has been a fantastic opportunity”.

It may not be the answer to all of our HR problems right now, but groups like this are making a genuine difference to both those struggling to manage new challenges and often do ‘more with less’ as well as to those who are desperately keen to stay relevant, engaged and, ultimately, eminently employable.  

If you are a senior HR leader, working or not working, and would like to hear more about getting involved with this initiative, please do get in touch with me directly.

Interested in this topic? Read How should employers prepare for a post-furlough world?

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