Bersin research highlights what HR departments are focusing on right now

The Covid-19 pandemic has presented HR departments with perhaps their greatest challenge in a generation - the overnight switch to remote working, managing furlough, making sure employees are well and potential redundancies to name a few of the mission-critical tasks on their to-do lists.

By: Paul Heaton on

Whilst we think we know what’s on HR’s mind right now, a timely survey from Josh Bersin has revealed some interesting areas of focus for people professionals. Here’s a look at what HR departments main areas of focus are in response to the global health crisis:

Health first (as you’d expect)

The top issue on HR’s mind right now is, rightly so and as you’d expect, the health of employees. As of the 7th April, employee wellbeing was the top priority for 26% of those who took part in the survey - far and away the key challenge.

Whilst you might expect that number to be higher, it is worth noting the time of the survey. An earlier sample may have presented a far larger figure as the pandemic began and many offices remained open waiting on government advice.

Managing the switch to remote working

The transition to remote work was the second priority issue for HR departments at 17%, ensuring all staff have laptops, communicating new work processes and so on. Again, this number would likely have been higher towards the start of the pandemic.

Keeping remote employees engaged

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that HR departments are keen to carry across some of the great work that’s been going on in the field of employee engagement into a new online workplace. Sixteen percent of HR professionals said creating engagement whilst working remotely was their top priority.

Protecting jobs

Fourteen percent of HR professionals said protecting employee jobs was their primary area of focus. In the UK, government furlough schemes have made it easier for organisations to keep employees on the books whilst in other countries, companies are looking at ‘job movement’ to realign people towards new roles where their previous one can’t be carried out during a lockdown.

Internal communications

Times of crisis and rapid change calls for transparent, timely communications, and that’s something 14% said was their top priority right now. Further research by Bersin found that employees are more concerned about their jobs than their personal health, so clear comms surrounding the future of their positions and the steps organisations are taking to protect jobs will be welcomed.

What else is HR focusing on?

Employee health, managing the transition to remote work and protecting jobs aren’t the only issues on HR’s plate. The survey uncovered other areas of keen focus, including the continuity of business operations, dealing with uncertainty and fostering connections with remote employees.

Read more: Recognition and remote working - the why and how

Interestingly, only 7% of the survey responders said that reducing costs was their primary focus. During times of crisis, it’s natural for firms to look at ways of drastically cutting expenditure.

However, it could be that HR has been tasked with maintaining the existing programs and even investing in new ones to successfully manage the switch to distributed working. Employee recognition programs and reward schemes, for example, will likely be viewed as necessities to help maintain the engagement of remote workers - a key priority as Bersin’s research notes. New investment in video conferencing and team communications platforms would also have been required for many organisations.

In fact, 78% of HR departments are investing in more onboarding tech and 69% are spending money on training programs. Almost half are also investing in changes to performance management programs - all designed to help ensure remote work can become a success.