Pandemic Changes CHRO Role for Good

March 4, 2021 –

The coronavirus pandemic has transformed C-suites all over the world. But for the role of CHRO, the changes have been revolutionary. A new report from IMSA Search examines how the COVID-19 crisis has demanded new capabilities and duties for chief HR officers. Its conclusion: the role of CHROs shouldn’t be overestimated. “At a time when new risks and second thoughts have emerged practically overnight, these leaders have had to create a new work culture, maintain morale and empower their employees,” the IMSA report said. “And this is and will continue to be a massive task.

The CHROs who are effectively dealing with it while avoiding harming staff performance have gained not only a new set of skills but also new responsibilities and duties.” But to keep their performance at the highest level, said the IMSA Search report, CHROs must stay focused and be especially aware of changes in these key areas:

The Organizational Model

Remote work was a growing trend well before the pandemic. According to Gallup’s “State of American Workforce 2017” report, the number of people working remotely rose between 2012 and 2016 in all studied groups. A similar study from 2019 showed that 43 percent of all U.S. employees work off-site at least part of the time.

Nevertheless, COVID-19 forced leaders to create organization models based on working from home. “Social isolation has
proven that many duties may be carried out from home without harming quality or efficiency,” said the IMSA Search report. “And not all employees are missing the office. As a result, for some organizations, remote work might remain as a permanent feature. For this reason, CHROs need to develop and implement new rules.”

As Tim McElgunn noted in “HRMorning,” there are many burning questions to answer right now, said the report. “For example, how will managers translate existing work rules, meeting schedules, and communications strategies to the new reality? Who will pay for remote workers’ connectivity and any required equipment? And even more important: How should an organization build and implement a long-term employee recognition strategy for remote workers?”

Of course, not all workers will want to stay at home. “Some of them will be happy to be back in the office,” said IMSA Search. “Nevertheless, that makes the situation even more complicated. When we all shake off the pandemic shock rules, HR teams will need to create new procedures, to find a balance in new normal.”

Hiring and Talent Management

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies halted their recruitment processes, which IMSA Search board member Lizette Ibarra said was not the best choice. Now they must unfreeze their search, which poses some difficulties, especially if the company went through some fundamental changes and staff cuts.

“Headhunting was never a piece of cake,” the IMSA Search report said. “The task of a recruiter is to find a perfect talent who possesses knowledge and experience but also shares company values. The process is always complicated and time-consuming. And now it becomes even more challenging. Candidates are cautious about their choices, and post-pandemic company structures are just developing. This means that, in some cases, it may be difficult to predict who might be the best fit for the organization.”

HR executives also need to remember about top talents already working at their company. “Not only talent acquisition but also retention remains a critical task,” said IMSA Search. “Employees need to be recognized and engaged, no matter if they are working remotely or dreaming of going back to the office.”

Rebuilding a Corporate Culture ASAP

The IMSA Search report also said that if “CHROs have so far failed in preserving their business culture, they should act right now. The corporate culture needs to be rebuilt as soon as possible.”

“A well-defined organizational culture is critical for long-term success,” IMSA Search said. “This is easy to say, but how you turn
it into practice in (post)pandemic, volatile times is another matter. And as the last months have shown, culture is vulnerable in times
of crisis. With financial problems on the one hand and structural changes on the other, it is easy to put organizational values, mission and identity aside.”

Nevertheless, the COVID-19 crisis seems to have had some positive outcomes. It has forced leaders to operate in a more agile way, which will probably benefit them in the future. As Ms. Kirby said: “Business leaders now have, in some sense, been gifted
with a better idea of what can and cannot be done outside their companies’ traditional processes, and COVID-19 is forcing both the pace and scale of workplace innovation. Many are finding simpler, faster and less expensive ways to operate.”

“Agile management may be the new norm, which will promote and value human communication and feedback, adapting to change, and producing working results,” the IMSA Search report said. “The ability to identify a problem and act proactively will be the hallmark of the top talents in this industry.”


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