I have worked in a large complex organisation where HR was viewed as a support service and another where HR was considered just a support service. How HR is viewed depends on the business and economic climate and the organisation’s leadership. Pre Covid-19 the business climate demanded HR focus on cost and performance.
This involved increasing efficiency mostly by changing working practices, terms and conditions of employment, outsourcing, reducing the workforce and introducing tougher procedures around absence management and performance appraisal. Senior management talked about “ transforming “ the organisation and the need to become a more agile organisation. But the vision was often narrow.
The idea of HR as an employee champion and a moral compass didn’t fit well with imposing new terms and conditions of employment, harsher absence management procedures, redeployment and redundancies. Perhaps the best example of this “just a support service “ role is the way Equality and Diversity was in many organisations quietly moved to the back burner.
The pandemic changed a lot of working practices over night once lock down was introduced. Working from home, Zoom meetings, management from a distance, virtual recruitment, raised awareness about the mental health of employees and a different take on absenteeism in view of the risk of infection. These changes have raised the profile of HR professionals and organisations are now thinking about the lessons learnt and the implications post Covid-19. Now would be a good time for HR professionals to reassert their leadership, to increase their influence and be more than just a support service.
To put this opportunity in a historical context the Personal and Training function developed into Human Resources and now the post Covid-19 business environment is ripe for a move to Human Capital Management. That is for HCM professionals to be seen as strategic partners, employee champions, change agents and administrative experts( employment and benefits).
The future of HR in organisations with a progressive leadership is to take the lead in reimagining the organisation.