Season 1, Episode 2: How HR is Managing the Covid-19 Crisis

Business Excelleration Podcast

COVID has represented a roller coaster for the human resources (HR) function. The Hackett Group’s North American Advisory Practice Leader Franco Girimonte talks with Senior Research Director Tony DiRomualdo about how the pandemic has changed HR’s role and provided an opportunity for HR to prove its value to the organization by playing a key role in maintaining business continuity. The HR function had to start or accelerate their digital transformation journey to succeed. While the pandemic has proven the strength of some HR organizations, it has uncovered weaknesses of others in key areas, including skills deficiencies, structural issues, and outdated technology that forced some of them to significantly change their HR strategy and processes.

Show Notes

Today’s episode of the “Business Excelleration Podcast” is hosted by Franco Girimonte, The Hackett Group’s North American Advisory practice leader. Franco welcomes Senior Research Director Tony DiRomualdo to the podcast. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected so many areas of life, and today’s conversation focuses on the impact it has had on HR. You will hear how HR was put in the spotlight to make quick decisions and change their HR strategy with direct impact on the organizational businesses during this crucial time. You will learn the strengths and weaknesses displayed by HR organizations during this crisis and changes the HR function will need to make.

The episode starts off with Franco asking Tony about the impact that COVID-19 had on the HR function. Tony talks about how employee well-being became a business issue immediately. He describes what it was like in early March 2020, when people were not able to go into the office due to health and safety issues. Because of this, businesses had to react very quickly and HR played a major role in leadership. Tony says, “Our research showed that in those cases where companies were able to weather this crisis more successfully, it was because of a strong HR capability and a strong HR response.” Tony describes how new policies and procedures had to be created and implemented virtually overnight.

The conversation continues to focus on how HR went into high gear during the crisis. Tony shares some of the successful attributes of HR organizations that they found from their polling and interviews.

Many successful HR organizations during this time have incorporated these HR excellence traits:

  • Acted decisively – very quickly
  • Had a sense of urgency from the beginning
  • Had knowledge from foreign operations
  • Executed with speed, precision and nimbleness

Next, Franco asks Tony what did and didn’t go well for the HR function during the crisis. Tony discusses two buckets: the capabilities of the HR organizations and the culture/mindset of HR organizations. He describes the value of well-defined service delivery models. Franco points out how the HR role performed similarly to an athlete preparing for a game. Tony says that the crisis was a game that nobody thought they would have to play. Tony emphasizes the roles that other parts of the organization had during this time and the collaboration that was needed with HR.

When discussing some of the weaknesses, Tony focuses on organization/structural weaknesses and technology weaknesses. He points out gaps, redundancies and workarounds that didn’t allow companies to work in the best way possible. He talks about the HR skill deficiencies like the ability to manage projects and gather data.

Tony discusses how the HR function will be changed as a result of the crisis. He talks about different ways that HR will be viewed more as a leader and how that comes with added responsibility and higher expectations. It will be important for HR roles to consider the culture of organizations while many employees are working remotely. Tony talks about HR digital transformation and the different ways HR has moved to a more digital model. Tony shares some ways that HR employees will need to be trained in the future on new skills.

Key Ideas:

1:00 – Franco Girimonte introduces himself as the host of today’s episode. He welcomes guest Tony DiRomualdo.

1:21 – Franco asks Tony about the impact of the pandemic on the HR function.

5:23 – Franco says that the pandemic has been an opportunity for HR to prove its value to organizations. He asks Tony to elaborate on this.

7:47 – Franco asks Tony what strengths and weaknesses of the HR function were revealed during the crisis.

13:46 – Franco asks Tony about some of the things that didn’t go as planned for the HR function during the crisis.

18:33 – Franco asks Tony about what he thinks will be different about the HR function in the future after learning from the pandemic.

22:07 – Franco asks Tony to address the infrastructure of HR.

25:35 – Franco asks Tony to address the skills of HR.