HR leaders from IBM, Persistent Systems and HomeLane discuss becoming a crucial partner in the war against the pandemic. Along the way, the people’s function managed to break a few myths too.
The COVID-19 pandemic propelled HR from the position of a support function to crisis managers in the blink of an eye. The shift to virtual work needed to be done quickly and without many hiccups.
This was perhaps the most chaotic period organisations faced recently, with the HR department going on a rollercoaster ride.
While 2020 went into situating employees and streamlining processes to ensure business continuity, 2021 was the year of several realisations that stemmed out from prolonged work from home and its several effects.
Last year, however, got employees to the office, which was equally demanding.
But the disruptions that the human resources department handled in the last two-three years has yielded a very favourable outcome.
As per a study by Sage People, a global cloud HR and People solution provider, HR leaders feel the department has become much more visible now than before. 65% believe their team played a critical role during the pandemic.
In an interaction with us earlier, Bhavesh Patel, Head of Talent Acquisition, CGI, spoke about the considerable change in the perception of HR.
“It’s a huge shift for teams that have, traditionally, been used to engaging the workforce with physical activities like making festive Rangolis and so on,” he added.
The role of HR has fundamentally been altered. But does it mean that the pandemic also accelerated an image makeover for the HR function?
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Organisations must continue to prioritise HR’s role in shaping and executing key business strategies. At HomeLane, our teams’ agility and strategic intervention helped us to transition to hybrid working and kept HomeLaners safe, engaged and productive during the entire period – Karuna Casuba, Associate VP HR, HomeLane
The Black Swan Moment
Yogesh Patgaonkar, Chief People Officer, Persistent Systems Ltd shares that the pandemic acted as a black swan moment for the HR function.
“Instead of an image makeover, I firmly believe that COVID-19 led to the image enhancement of the HR function. HR has always played a crucial role in building connections of employees with the company, ensuring their well-being, and providing an environment to grow and succeed.”
However, he believes tackling the pandemic was unprecedented and completely transformed how we work and engage with each other. HR function rose to the occasion by giving people the confidence and stability they needed in an uncertain environment.
The people function became crucial during this period as it helped organisations upgrade to the demands of the pandemic-induced work culture.
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At the time, we often saw roles of the CEO and CHRO overlapping where everyone played a critical role in people management. HR assumed more considerable strategic importance in the organisation. – Thirukkumaran Nagarajan, VP and Head HR, IBM India/South Asia
Transforming HR during COVID-19
Thirukkumaran Nagarajan, Vice President and Head of HR for IBM India/South Asia, feels HR has been a critical partner of the business and has been instrumental in transforming how we work, especially during the pandemic.
“At the time, we often saw roles of the CEO and CHRO overlapping where everyone played a critical role in people management,” he notes, “and HR assumed more considerable strategic importance in the organisation.”
From an IBM point of view, HR technology, including AI-based chatbots, proactive advisory nudges, and deep insights derived from data analytics, gained traction to make the right people decisions.
The fast adoption of automation and innovations went a long way in smoothing the rough edges. As a result, many organisations saw a boost in productivity during the COVID period.
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Not just a resource management division
Karuna Casuba, Associate Vice President of HR, HomeLane, suggests, “Organisations must continue to prioritise HR’s role in shaping and executing key business strategies. At HomeLane, our teams’ agility and strategic intervention helped us to transition to hybrid working and kept HomeLaners safe, engaged and productive during the entire period.”
Instead of an image makeover, I firmly believe that COVID-19 led to the image enhancement of the HR function. HR has always played a crucial role in building connect of employees with the company, ensuring their well-being, and providing an environment to grow and succeed – Yogesh Patgaonkar, Chief People Officer, Persistent Systems Ltd
Buoyed by such a strategic push, today, at HomeLane, the HR function has evolved beyond resource management and plays a crucial role in driving the firm’s business agenda.
Digitisation and automation played a decisive role here and will continue to do so in years to come. This, coupled with a pandemic experience, the HR department did break many myths and perceptions.