During this pervasive corona pandemic, there has never been a more telling moment for those working in the human resources field to care for their colleagues, many of whom are part of essential services and find themselves on the frontline of defence against the COVID-19 virus. Those in the human resources component of the business must find innovative and meaningful ways to connect with, care for and support all employees.

Wayne Davies, Senior Vice-President H R Business Partnership of Emirates Airline, recently reported on a virtual meeting of his 40 human resources team members coming together for a check-in – they had been working remotely for the past month and, by leveraging technology, have been able to determine their ever-shifting people priorities on a daily basis. Davies notes: “I’m so immensely proud of this team and their drive, energy, compassion and relentless focus on delivering the outcomes that matter most to our people … and at a time when they need it. We are here to offer all the support that is required. This is what we do”.

The COVID-19 virus is changing the way we think, how we work, how we educate and how we live. There is a degree of permanence in some of this and human resources professionals have to be ready for positive change of an unprecedented magnitude. Some of this change may just happen to them – finding ways to care for employees that now work remotely, etc. I feel, however, that human resources professionals need to be leading the way – working together with members of executive teams to chart people paths in an uncertain future. This is going to be true specifically as businesses re-open and attempt to re-establish themselves and find their feet again. They are going to need all the support that they can get.

Davies further comments: “This is a time for humility, appreciation and gratitude. We’ll be back soon and look forward to taking to the skies once more. Until then, we continue to focus on taking care of our most cherished asset of all … our people. We fly better because of you. Please stay home and stay safe. Thank you for your support, from the best H R team in the business”.

The pandemic is a unique moment for human resources professionals to act on the following:

  1. Demonstrating authentic care – finding ways of showing all employees their value and worth to the organisation.
  2. Initiating practical physical distancing processes – planning work spaces on the shop floor to cater for distancing compliance, but still enabling the job to get done.
  3. Communicating accurately – avoiding fake news by offering the best pandemic information to all employees and their respective families.
  4. Planning effectively – being ahead of the game with respect to resourcing needs of the company going forward.
  5. Setting the people foundations firmly – planning for the future of work in such a way that it guarantees consideration of sustainability in decision-making processes.

Human resources professionals have a unique opportunity during this current pandemic to play a major role in caring for and supporting all company employees, particularly those on the front line of combating the virus. This is a time for decisive leadership, presence and involvement, not for mundane administration.

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