4 Ways HR Has Evolved Since COVID (Have you evolved too?)

by Jan 12, 2022

There’s no question HR has evolved tremendously over the past few years. The question is, have you evolved too?

Here are our predictions on where we’re at and where we’re headed, in four specific and important areas. 


The Great Rebranding of Human Resources

How many news stories have we seen that paint HR in a negative light? Susan Fowler’s infamous blog claimed HR knew about the culture of harassment and did nothing – a pattern seen in many articles since (and an employee perception we see in many of our clients).

HR’s also been fighting for a “seat at the table” for decades now. We’ve seen some progress with title shifts (e.g., HR Business Partner) and the relatively new role of Chief Human Resources Officers, for example, but I posit based on my experiences with clients that many leaders still see HR as a cost center focused on compliance.

Enter COVID and it’s changed everything. HR professionals are the heroes leading the world’s employers through an epic pandemic. Leaders are learning that HR is the crux of an organization’s survival and employees are learning that HR is focused on their safety, well-being, and need for flexibility.

Seize the moment, HR! Now is the time to secure our rebrand as trusted partners to leaders and employees, and a pillar of organizational success. 


The Great Resignation (AKA The Great Forcing Employers to Care About Culture)

As Simon Sinek points out in this 00:56 video, employers love to pin resignations on employees pursuing their dreams or holding out until unemployment benefits are gone. Yet we (and Simon) suspect that most people leave because the unknown feels like a better path than staying in a current situation where company culture sucks.

With The Great Resignation comes a lot of great data from your exit interviews. What have you been hearing? Are people really leaving to start a yoga studio, or are they talking about poor culture or their manager who doesn’t take feedback well?

Use the data you’ve collected from exit interviews to show leaders how important culture is to retaining employees. One way we accomplish this with our clients is to break the interview notes into themes, so that the data becomes digestible and actionable.

We also suggest a survey for the employees still hanging around, especially because, according to a recent SHRM survey, approximately 30% of them are struggling to get work done, feel less loyal to their organization, and feel lonelier. More than half are wondering if their pay is high enough.

Let us know if you need some help with your workplace survey. 


Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

In 2020, people found the courage to openly discuss the layers of systemic and societal norms that perpetuate racism, discrimination, bias, and privilege. Suddenly the old school mentality of DEI as a training program was unacceptable, if not repugnant. The world got a hard look at what DEI consultants have known for decades – there is a LOT of work to do, and every individual has a part to play in it. 

It’s important that we don’t lose sight of the progress we’ve made and we continue pushing the line with our 2022 business strategy and beyond. Within the next few years, every organization needs to have implemented a sustainable plan that integrates DEI into the business’ core functions, systems, products, and services. 

If your organization isn’t focusing on this, it will lose out on top talent with so many opportunities to work with companies who do focus on it. Candidates are going to ask questions like, “How did your organization respond to #BLM in 2020?” and, “What DEI programs do you have in place now and for the future?” If they don’t like your answers, they’ll move on. The opportunity to work remotely makes that even more likely.

If you haven’t already, consider hiring a DEI consultant to help you figure out where you’re at and where to go, asking a team of diverse panelists from your workforce to review your job postings and descriptions for exclusivity and bias, and ensuring promotions are approved through several channels before they’re granted.


HR Data and Analytics 

To secure your new reputation with leaders as a key component of organizational success you’ll need to measure things your leaders care about, and measure and prove the success of your “fluffy” HR initiatives.

An employee well-being initiative, for example, will require some metrics to prove the return on investment. Do participants in your stay interviews mention this initiative as a reason they stay? Does your employee survey show stress is decreasing?

Employer accountability for equal pay and equal opportunities continues to rise. Audits on pay, and leadership and training opportunities, are necessary moving forward. Transparency will also be key – do you publish the requirements for joining a leadership training program? Is it crystal clear how to move up in the organization and does a diverse group support those who want to move up? Is the workforce measured in their competencies related to inclusivity?  

And, COVID – and claiming your organization is inclusive – requires flexible work. As I mentioned in my LinkedIn Learning course on flexible work (which I am making free for the next 24-hours so you can watch it) research is showing that CEO’s are expecting people to return at some point while employees plan to hold tight to some version of flex work.

You’re going to need data to show leadership that flex work can work. We’ve got a whole bunch of ways to measure flex work’s success or failure here on our blog.

I also have a course on HR Metrics if you want to check it out. I’ll make it free too.


Buckle up, HR. We’ve been called to the front lines and there we’ll stay for at least another year. (Hopefully it’s only that long!)

Keep pushing forward and keep your eye on your rebrand while you do it. 

You are paramount to organizational success, HR. And we have the chance to change the game for our profession, and for society and its workplaces. 

About Catherine Mattice Zundel

Catherine Mattice Zundel, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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