Post Covid presents HR with the holy grail of strategic opportunity, the timing is perfect for HR to grasp the moment and regain the strategic high ground it sold out for a bag of magic beans call “The Business Partner Model” (BPM) at the end of the last century. Whilst some of the best Battle-weary leaders across the UK are trying to survive the daily COVID-19 cycle of changes, HR Directors have an opportunity to step up with real Post Covid-19 thinking that will navigate their organisations on a pathway out of semi-hibernation and get their focus onto the strategy that they will need to get back into a sustainable position from which to reset their organisation into the post Covid commercial world.

Whilst other departments are still struggling with too many heads stuck in the sand crying foul against every reduction in, or lack of government support and acting in pure defence mode, HRD’s can grasp the metal and see this as a time of opportunity to seize the moment to rediscover our purpose and come back better and stronger in the post COVID-19 world. Having sold the family silver at the start of this century HR can now recover from selling out to shared services, abdicating responsibility to line managers, and allowing organisations to wallow in failed performance management bureaucracy by regaining a strategic role in their organisations. Employee Wellbeing, remote working, staff engagement, internal Communications and organisational resourcing are all changing beyond recognition and along with many other HR responsibilities are taking on a whole new relevance in the Post-Covid employment arena.

As a minimum Senior leaders are currently asking HR on an almost daily basis questions such as “How can we manage a safe and efficient re-opening of our workplace and track the wellbeing of our employees, particularly anxieties around the transition back to the office?” “How can we effectively nurture the employee experience of remote workers, front-line employees and those gradually returning to the workplace all at the same time?”. “What will the future of the employee experience look like in a post-pandemic workplace”.

The HR profession may never get another opportunity like this again, and more importantly if we fail to take advantage of this opportunity, we may be hammering the final nails in the Strategic HR coffin. As reported some time ago “HR may not yet be drinking in the last chance saloon they are certainly drinking in the wine bar next door.” This is HR’s opportunity to get things done, drop habits and processes that were not serving their organisations and form new operating arrangements that will create polaric sustainable change in the way HR works and the contribution they make to business success.

Many may disagree and others may feel my extinction predictions are too severe, and I would agree we have missed other opportunities in the last twenty years and survived. What is different this time is there is no fall-back position, nor is there a safe haven of “average” to set lower goals for an HR provision that would prefer to spend time fiddling with Home working policies and flexible working regulations while our colleagues in line management, procurement, IT, and finance muddle through building operational add-on’s onto old HR systems in an attempt to make them usable instead of clearing their desks and start again. If HR does not step-up organisations will fiddle at the edges of the old order instead of building from the bottom up.

As business leaders rethink the purpose of work, as well as how and where work gets done in a post-pandemic world HR cannot sit back waiting for decisions to be made by others, they need to be at the table balancing the needs of the organisation and the workforce showing how a strategic HR contribution can support a workforce that is keen to embrace remote working in ever increasing numbers whilst ensuring management finally discovers how to best manage and engage an increasingly distributed workforce.

During and after coronavirus chaos, managers and staff will need a strong steer from their HR leaders. HR needs to be seen as trusted and informed, keeping the pace of the organisation high and continually moving forward with clear short and long-term goals focusing on Post-Covid Pillars of organisational success. Strategy, People, Operational Effectiveness and Financial Sustainability.


Historically HR has too quickly seen strategy as being time-consuming and somewhat etherical because organisational objectives or marketplace demand is constantly changing, and future planning never gets beyond hypothetical debate HR cannot capture it a policy or a procedure. But that has all changed, in a post Covid world speed will trump detail as organisations find themselves focusing on survivability and resilience before economic efficiency. If HR is to make a credible strategic contribution post Covid, it needs to support line managers by embracing strategic planning from a people perspective and ensuring change/uncertainty is not seen as a risk to strategy but rather it is a key element of strategic success. HR need to ensure organisational competences include the competence of “dealing with uncertainty” and consequently we need to revise how we resource, motivate, and reward our organisations with these critical skills. When HR successfully convinces its organisation that Post pandemic working life is new ground, they will be able to focus on identifying the new strengths, weaknesses and trends their managers and workforce will need to succeed.
Key HR Strategic Activities should include:- (list not exhaustive)

  • Clarity on national employee trends and how and when these will impact.
  • Local / social responsibility? (this is likely to be a big trend)
  • Security and safety of the employee / customer environment?
  • What are your top competencies/skill/abilities needed? How to leverage these.
  • Clear records of what the organisation is weak at and credible short-term mitigation plans.
  • Keep the workforce informed. – information is power only when you give it away.
  • Organisation integrity, HR should ensure the organisation knows and understands all issues g. city centre sandwich chain is failing its workforce by ignoring the changing face of the working lunch.
  • Organisational ambition, there will be opportunities now that only come along once in a generation.
  • Partnerships – the future is not competitors its partners.


Whether an organisation values its people or not Covid-19 has shown that every element of a business circles back to its people. HR needs to be responsible for ensuring that the organisational strategy acknowledges that by understanding and nurturing the human element of the organisation it will lead to the organisation being more profitable, more effective, and work better. However, that also requires HR to ensure the strategy has a resourcing plan that guarantees they have the right workforce planning in place. No longer should HR be allowed to abdicate its responsibility for recruitment, reward, and development, instead they need to be held accountable for the image, attractiveness and viability of the organisation as an employer of choice.

Key people elements within the strategy should include: – (not exhaustive)

  • Is the culture adding value?
  • Are you layers and spans on control effective?
  • Do you have the right people?
  • Do the right people have the right skills
  • Is the reward strategy appropriate for a post Covid workplace?
  • Is your workforce in the right roles?
  • Do you have effective internal relationships?
  • Is the Performance Management system adding to organisational success?


As organisations emerge from Covid Hibernation they will need to be able to act quickly and decisively. As time is of the essence, it is crucial HR is seen as a contributor rather than a hinderance to fast decision making. HR must ensure that all HR systems and processes accelerate positive changes rather than create log jams. HR needs to ensure the organisation is equipped both with the capability and maturity to adapt to the changes that are happening around them and accept that this will mean mistakes will be made. HR needs to ensure the evolving Post-Covid values set includes a willingness to fail fast, learn from the mistakes, pivot, and adapt as and when required. Key operational Effectiveness issues should include: – (Not exhaustive)

  • Internal Process Review
  • Streamline administrative bureaucracy.
  • Capture, categorise and mitigate all operational constraints.
  • Move from KPI’s (Key performance indicators) to OKR’s (Objectives and key results).
  • Develop live goal-setting frameworks for defining and tracking objectives and outcomes.


HR needs to embrace a measured contribution to organisational success and ensure it adds real measurable value to it. For any business to survive in the fallout of Covid-19, cash flow/ financial stability will undeniably be one of the single most important factors determining its propensity for success or failure. Previously HR repeatedly sought to avoid any linkage between the HR contribution and the organisations financial sustainability. The reality post Covid for HR will be “what gets measured gets done.” If HR is to hold a seat at the strategic table it needs to have the ability to directly protect and support the organisation, the employees, and the customer base. If any of its actions, processes or operational arrangements do not address this they are by default redundant and should be removed or revised.

Whilst born out of the tragedy and necessity of Covid-19, these shifts in how HR should work in future has given many business leaders a chance to throw away the old employment playbook and I can predict they will do this in large numbers. Of course, there are many jobs that will still need to be location based but even these will be significantly affected by a tsunami of change to management style and approach and it will become HR’s single most important role in this reset to ensure that whatever emerges from the pandemic that it brings with it new models of working and a new workforce strategy that is sustainably engaged, inclusive, diverse and resilient.


Original article ‘This will not be a restart – it will be a reset‘ Written by Graham White Published by The HR Director


Looking to recruit via an agency?
Read our report “The Ultimate Guide to Finding a Recruitment Partner

Not yet benefiting from flexible workers?
Read our guide “Why Using Temporary Workers Will Grow Your Organisation”

How can you be sure you’re doing all you can to attract the right talent for your organisation?
Read our guide “The Ultimate Guide to The Recruitment Process”