During the pandemic, HR became the new centre of innovation

By Amit Das

Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd. (The Times Group)

Mumbai, India


To say that 2020 was a year of learning would be an understatement. The past year brought human resources to the forefront like never before. In fact, 2020 was the year for HR in many ways, since the pandemic enabled the HR function to rise to prominence more than ever before. At one time a service delivery function, HR is now the centre of innovation.

Last year saw HR at the forefront of almost every aspect of the workplace, be it health and safety, business continuity, remote work planning and logistics, communication, employee experience, and, most importantly, partner in the responsibility of future-proofing organisations.

Human resources functions became increasingly important when companies accelerated their digital transformation during the pandemic.
Human resources functions became increasingly important when companies accelerated their digital transformation during the pandemic.

So, how did this shift happen? To begin with, the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly made organisations pivot to a work-from-home model overnight. This meant managing technological advancements along with managing employee expectations.

This change led to the acceleration of organisations’ digital transformation journeys. The responsibility of ensuring a smooth transition and having the right technology in place became an HR priority. HR led the recovery from the front because most of the issues had to do with people. It this leadership role, it had to step out of the service delivery zone and become the centre of innovation.

In 2020, HR definitely strengthened its seat at the boardroom table. In fact, it became responsible for some of the most crucial decisions that organisations had to take to keep business continuity intact and ensure employees were safe, secure, engaged, and productive.

One thing that is on the mind of every HR leader today is: How will the role of HR pan out in 2021? Will it remain at the core of this ongoing change?

According to the 2021 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey, workers said the top three objectives of work transformation should be improving quality, increasing innovation, and improving worker well-being. Going forward, the HR function will be expected to deliver a multi-stakeholder delivery model to enable business to operate efficiently while also facilitating virtual management by leaders. It will also remain at the core of ensuring a smooth workplace experience for employees, whether they decide to work from an office, home, or anywhere else.

On the other hand, HR will help businesses future-proof themselves by getting the right structure and capabilities to build a better fit for future organisations. In the second year of the pandemic, we can safely say HR will continue to be the heroes of response as workplaces continue to transform. HR leaders will be at the forefront of leading this change.

According to a recent Gartner survey, 64% of managers believe office workers are higher performers than remote workers, and in turn are likely to give in-office workers a higher raise than those who work from home. However, data by Gartner collected from both 2019 (pre-pandemic) and 2020 (during the pandemic) shows the opposite: Full-time remote workers are 5% more likely to be high performers than those who work full-time from the office.

As we slowly move into the recovery phase and organisations adapt to the hybrid work model, we will see HR emerge and create a stronger place for itself in the organisation to ensure the future of work is conducive both for businesses and the workforce.

About Amit Das

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