New C-Suite: Why Companies Should Have a CHRO

by Rhiannon Staples

The COVID-19 pandemic is an event the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the flu outbreak in 1918, before co-working spaces and international travel on airlines. Strange is it may seem, the solution, for now, is to stay at home for work and play.

With the increase in remote work, HR is fundamentally shifting into a higher-level decision-making position where HR technology will help drive critical analyses about the productivity and effectiveness of the distributed teams. 

Why Should Companies Have a CHRO?

In these unusual times, HR has the power to support employees on both professional and personal levels. There is no one C-level that can lead the process of sending employees overnight to work from home, dealing with who and how to furlough employees on a mega scale, and figure out the operational requirement of bringing teams back to the office safely and without disrupting productivity. Line managers of teams and other C-levels do not have the knowledge, experience, or information on how to deal with the massive people changes required and still keep everything working like never before. 

In times of crisis, employees at all levels are relying on HR for the most basic, and complicated, needs:

Empathy The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t limited to employees’ physical health. HR’s role is to strengthen the role of empathy in company culture: to keep an open-door policy for struggling employees (and maintain confidentiality!), make sure managers know how to identify warning signs for at-risk teammates, and implement organization-wide processes that relieve some stress, whether that be the occasional half-day, gifts sent home or even just encouraging messages. 

Communication — The transition from location-based teams to a fully distributed model highlights communication problems within and between teams. HR’s role is to help managers and employees learn best practices for remote communication, including how to take advantage of existing tech tools.

Awareness — Especially in larger companies, the C-suite may have limited interaction with employees. HR’s role is to continuously advocate for employee rights and needs and to be the voice of those who can’t speak for themselves. 

Information — HR should be an organization’s single source of truth for organizational and government policy at this time. In order to feel secure, employees need to know they can trust HR to explain procedures for shelter-in-place, furlough and other unique-to-COVID needs.

Only HR can provide a bridge between employees and executives. As a liaison between the staff, C-Suite and the company board, the CHRO will be needed in the boardroom to make decisions on developing a return to the office process and plans. 

How Is HR Simplifying WFH?

Without HR piloting the change, how could an entire company pivot to WFH? Quickly? Slowly? Actually, this kind of change takes more than time. It takes ability. Change has to start from above but make sense on the micro-level. When it comes to implementing remote processes, there’s no one better equipped than HR — for both the small tasks and the big ones.

With many companies adopting work from home as the new norm, it is pretty clear that there will be more and more remote workforces, which means that everyday office operations will include the new offices that will be online. These offices of people working from home will have to be approached through HR technology to keep communications going, and their added value will be through organizing operations, building culture and boosting employee morale remotely. Tasks such as facilitating work-from-home office setup and remote management training may well become critical for HR employees. 

By establishing codes of conduct for WFH, from defining what remote management entails to pre-empting any dress code faux pas, HR will save the day for all team members working from home.

This Is HR’s Time to Shine

HR is not there just for hiring and payroll but also to analyze payroll and gender gaps, diversity and morale. With modern HR technology, HR can now provide finance with information about payroll costs and performance measures. 

HR Technology Data Is an Asset for Senior Management Decision Making 

HR can utilize anonymous survey technology available on HR tech to get a feel for what’s important to employees so they can come back safely and where there is room for flexibility and improvement; this way HR knows well know before anyone which issues need to be addressed by senior management and the board. The feedback on HR surveys is authentic and direct and portray the truth about people’s feelings.   

HR Will Become Culture Leaders

With remote work being the norm HR can no longer leave culture-building for the team managers alone, and HR is expected to use technology to implement culture-building exercises. HR can help staff build friendships and connections (especially when onboarding) by helping employees identify shared interests and facilitate creating groups with similar interests.

Rhiannon Staples is the chief marketing officer of Hibob, the company behind the transformative HR platform bob, which brings together employees and managers to help them communicate and collaborate more effectively.

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