HR Strategy

Paying the Price: Justifying HR Costs When Resources Are Tight

August 13, 2020

For many organizations, budgets are tight. Some have lost major revenue sources, others had to rapidly spend money on new health and safety measures, and some might have made major capital investments to develop new products and services or modify existing offerings. All of these changes to budgets mean most organizations are looking for ways to cut costs, and if your HR function still has an internal reputation as a ‘cost centre’, it can swiftly find itself a target for reductions in staff, programs, services, and tools. But while HR can look like an easy place to save money, many organizations are discovering they need HR now more than ever.

During a crisis, long-term thinking becomes tougher. The present demands our attention, and short-term solutions begin to make sense, while their long-term consequences go undiscussed and unconsidered. It’s a mistake, though, to focus on the immediate crisis at the expense of future stability. As endless as this pandemic has felt, it will be over eventually, and when it is, organizations that gave thought to their post-pandemic strategies will be better positioned to recover quickly.

Human resources always matters because humans always matter. No organization can thrive unless its people are thriving, too, so it’s more important than usual to invest in HR in times of crisis, when staff are under tremendous stress or feel vulnerable. It’s the human in human resources that makes it so critical; HR is about finding, developing, and maintaining an effective workforce, and in light of current challenges, an effective workforce is essential. Organizations need their people to be healthy, engaged, and supported

Meeting this need right now is a challenge, but one that HR is ideally suited to meet. HR as a discipline is about everything this pandemic has made so central to our lives. Responsibility for health and safety compliance, for workforce training and development, for policy implementation, and for hiring and retention efforts rests in most organizations with HR already. Now that these tasks have assumed more importance than before, organizations need to be ready and willing to empower their HR functions and invest in their capacity to help lead and direct these changes. 

If this sounds a little abstract, let’s explore some examples. Changes in the workplace arising from the pandemic mean new policies and procedures to explain the different rules, more training to ensure employees understand what to do, but that just covers the basics. Employers should be keeping a closer eye on how employees are feeling and reacting to these changes—surveys are a great way to accomplish that. The rapid pace of change is likely to leave many HR professionals and business owners feeling overwhelmed—Live HR Advice and consulting services can put things into perspective or share some of the workload. Employees’ jobs have to change, which means new job descriptions. Many organizations have had to change schedules, approve much higher uses of sick time, or manage dozens of employees suddenly on unpredictable job-protected leaves; an HRIS is crucial for keeping these moving parts organized. Workforces are becoming remote that never were before, straining workplace culture and performance management processes—again, responsibilities that frequently involve HR. Work is different now, and might never again be as it was, and you need your HR people at the heart of your response plans.

Even as we head back to our offices and other workplaces, Canadian businesses still need to take greater precautions around health and safety, manage a workforce with unexpected personal responsibilities, and keep morale and engagement high despite a profound crisis. All of these tasks require a well-supported (and well-funded) HR function. Times are tough, and budgets are tight, but continuing to invest in your people will always pay the best dividends.

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