When the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to adapt to a new reality, many human resources departments faced challenges like never before.
Now a question that confronts companies is whether their HR departments have evolved enough to come through for them in a world that continues to change with unprecedented rapidity, says Bill Lyons, the ForbesBooks author of We Are HR: The Business Owner’s Definitive Guide to Professional Employer Organizations.
“HR departments really have had to step up in the last year, adjusting their focus to make sure they were providing the right support in the right areas,” says Lyons, who also is the CEO of Lyons HR, one of the largest privately held Professional Employer Organizations in the country.
“Businesses need to make sure they are giving HR the prominent role it needs to meet the challenges head on.”
Issues such as safety and employee accountability are charging to the fore, creating the necessity for nimble minds behind those HR doors.
“As more challenges emerge, HR must continue to evolve just like any other department, making sure company policies and practices match the reality that managers and employees deal with on any given day,” Lyons says.
He says some ways HR can help companies improve their profitability on a per-employee basis include:
Talent Acquisition and Retention
HR should identify and nurture current employees who are ambitious, motivated, knowledgeable, and loyal, so businesses can keep them and promote them when the time is right, says Lyons.
Improved Safety Programs
Depending on the industry, product, or service, companies have a certain level of risk in their business models– especially if employees operate vehicles, heavy equipment, or specialized machinery. HR best practices will help business owners be proactive in managing that risk, Lyons says, potentially lowering workers’ compensation costs, which in turn impacts the bottom line.
“Above all else,” he says, “it’s on you to keep your company safe at all times and to ensure that employees leave work the same way they arrived, which hopefully was healthy, secure, and injury-free.”
Staying Up-to-date on Labor Laws
Employers face a growing, constantly changing web of regulations from agencies on the regional, state, and federal level. Now added to the mix are COVID-19 guidelines.
“You often have to dig deep to find the answers you need, in order to avoid costly mistakes or litigation,” Lyons says. “Staying educated on labor law is just plain smart – and good business. Chances are, your employees are confused about one or more issues, and it’s your job to provide clarity.”
“As we’ve seen repeatedly, and as this pandemic has reminded us, a crisis is unavoidable,” Lyons says. “When it happens, you are either an adapter to that crisis, or you’re destroyed and put out of business by that crisis. The businesses that are able to say, ‘Here are the challenges, but here’s how we’re going to modify, adapt, and change our behaviors and our service model’ — those are the ones who are going to emerge as the real winners.”