COVID-19: The HR Community Responds

April 6, 2020 Mike Wood

4-minute read

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Check out today's "Keeping Work Human" episode on carving a path forward for HR.

It’s amazing how everything can change in an instant. One day you’re looking forward to having a night out with your partner or grabbing some beers with your buddies. The next, you’re three weeks into a global pandemic, separated from work and friends, and isolated with an infant and a 4-year-old who refuses to put on clothes.

I’ve been lucky that through my work with Workhuman® Radio, I have met and befriended many HR professionals who generally want to help others. Since most of us are active on Twitter, I asked the group what they would tell other HR professionals during this crisis. Here are some of my favorite answers:

  • “You’ll be judged on how you treat your people … by future job candidates and customers." - Mervyn Dinnen, HR and talent trends analyst
  • “Taking care of employees is the priority for HR pros right now.” - Sharlyn Lauby, author of HR Bartender and president of ITM Group Inc.
  • “HR professionals can retain their humanity when communicating with staff and/or handling a crisis by first considering how we would want to be treated if we were in a different role. HR professionals are in a unique position. We have to be ready and able to support our colleagues in times of need; however, there is often no one to do so for us. In lieu of that, we lean on our external peers, which is why having a network and community of people we can relate to and vice versa is critical. Reaching out to your network/community (virtually, of course) and remembering this is something we haven't really dealt with before will go a long way to help alleviate the stress that can often cause people to lose their sense of humanity when dealing with others. We are all learning as we go so we have to offer space and grace to our colleagues and ourselves." - Tamara Rasberry, HR manager at National Community Reinvestment Coalition
  • “Values are a grounding point and guiding light. Crisis is not the time to abandon them; your leadership depends on working from them. The road is twisty, messy, bumpy. Remember who you are.” - Rob Caswell, employee and labor relations at Carewest Innovative Health Care
  • “There may be a shift in how work is done, but people's basic needs will still be the same. HR can still support and transform – it will take flexibility, adaptability, and open-mindedness." - Mary Faulkner, senior advisor at IA
  • “I want HR pros to bring all of their creativity to the table. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rethink everything. If we emerge from this crisis unchanged and wedded to an old way of thinking about work, we have failed as an industry." Laurie Ruettimann, writer, speaker, and podcaster
  • “We're seeing so many people step up, encourage each other, and connect. That is wonderful. I hope it continues after we get through everything because it's a much better approach to work and life in general.” - Steve Browne, vice president of HR at LaRosa’s Inc.
  • “We will get through and when we do, don't let things go back to the old 1982 ways of thinking. Sometimes it takes the catalyst of crisis to challenge our assumptions about connection and workplaces. Also, make time for self-care now and after this is over. You are worth it.” - Pam Ross, founder and culture catalyst at Blue Rebel Works
  • “I keep reminding folks to breathe. I have had HR professionals on the phone/video with me in tears because they have no one else to talk to about the impact on them personally. This is the hardest work of our lives. We will be stronger for it, but it’s hard in the middle.” - Katee Van Horn, speaker and coach

We’re in the middle of uncharted territory for HR professionals and many of us don’t know what to do to take care of ourselves, let alone our employees. But there is hope and a community of people willing to help. I think my friend and HR professor extraordinaire Matthew Stollak said it best in his response to my question on Twitter:

“The HR community is out there. You have to be willing to be vulnerable and know that it is OK to ask for help. We're all in this together.”


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About the Author

Mike Wood

Mike was the former Industry Relations Manager at Workhuman.

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