COVID-19: How technology is helping businesses manage HR

5 min read  |   28 August, 2020   By Nick Hardy

Six people are sitting around a desk and holding a large white cloud. There are several other clouds lying on the table which are blue and white.

Over the last six months, businesses have had to rapidly re-think the way they and their teams work, with a sizable proportion of the workforce working from home. Prior to lockdown, many business leaders were aware of the availability of the various technologies and applications which enable home-working yet remained dubious about allowing their people to work remotely.

The second half of the year looks very, very different to what most of us could have imagined six months ago. Having emerged from the initial phases of the crisis, we’re now firmly in adjustment mode with many businesses undertaking restructuring plans as they plan for an uncertain future.

The BBC has published a story which reveals that fifty of the biggest UK employers they questioned have said they have no plans to return all staff to the office full-time in the near future. Some smaller businesses questioned by the BBC reported that they are abandoning their offices altogether.

With so many companies planning to extend their working from home policies, the use of technology to enable team members to stay connected will be important for everyone. This will especially be the case for people managers who are responsible ensuing team members are collaborating effectively, irrespective of their location.

The important role of the cloud

Ensuring your data is safe and secure

Embrace a digitally equipped workforce

The evolution of effective people management

Recruitment, training and onboarding

The important role of the cloud

Access to the various software applications many of us have been using has been enabled by the cloud and the pandemic has underlined just how central this is to businesses. Before the crisis, many organisations have in part, moved software and systems online but many were still partly reliant on their own servers for hosting the applications and communication tools that are key to team members’ roles.

There are many sound arguments for moving to the cloud, not least being the fact that it enables dispersed teams to collaborate effectively from wherever they have access to the internet. Indeed, widespread use of the cloud has seen the rise of ‘digital nomads’ who work all over the world irrespective of where their employers are based. The cloud has made the business world a smaller place.

As business adapt to post-lockdown life, many are moving towards ‘hybrid’ ways of working which combine working with home with a phased, partial return to the workplace. For these businesses, the cloud and the use of online software applications will be integral to their plans and future.

Ensuring your data is safe and secure

Before migrating to the cloud, it’s important for businesses to research their options. Security levels can vary between different application and platform providers. The security of your customer, contact and employee data is of paramount importance. Not only is it common sense and best practice, it’s also the law. Compliance with GDPR legislation is key to avoiding penalties and fines from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

So, how do you know if a cloud-hosted application or system is secure?

Look for evidence of independent accreditation and certification. Breathe, for instance, is ISO 270001 accredited which means we have been assessed by security experts and our processes and procedures have been deemed to meet stringent standards.

Our people management software is hosted by Amazon Web Services in state-of-the-art datacentres which are protected by many layers of security. To establish an equivalent environment for managing software and hardware in-house, a business could very easily spend several million pounds.

Security is important as employee data is highly sensitive. Our software's document management functionality enables people managers to centralise all HR related information in one single place from where it can be accessed by authorised personnel.

Administrators can grant people different levels of access to ensure they can only see what is relevant to them. It’s a far cry from paper files and filing cabinets, and means that those responsible for HR can work effectively from anywhere.

Embrace a digitally equipped workforce

Maximising the cloud and technologies we’ve used as short-term communication tools (such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams), and adapting their use for our long-term gain will be a critical part of our recovery.

Innovation and collaboration are borne from our ability to embrace new ways of working, not just from our ability to communicate within our own teams or office buildings. Organisations that see technology as an enabler of communication, regardless of their structure or location, are those that will thrive as we emerge into a new working ‘normal’ and HR is very much at the heart of this.

The evolution of effective people management

Traditionally, HR hasn’t may not have been as reliant on technology as other areas of a business such as financial management or marketing but this has now changed. The adoption of new hybrid ways of working means those responsible for people management need to be equipped with tools that enable effective communication and collaboration.

Effective people management will be key to ensuring team members are engaged, motivated and positive as we move forward. There are undoubtedly challenging times ahead with some people requiring more support than others to make sure they are working happily and productively at a time when this has never been so important.

People managers who use cloud-based systems like Breathe which automate day-to day admin are likely to save time which they can then spend on doing what they do best; helping team members perform despite the ongoing challenges.

Recruitment, training and onboarding

In addition to recording absences, logging holiday requests and storing employee documents and records, people managers may also need to think carefully about online performance reviews and providing online training. As we come through the crisis, recruitment will restart and business managers may need to think about online onboarding to help new employees connect with their colleagues.

For many small businesses, the challenges ahead mean leaders will fundamentally need to re-think existing people management policies and procedures. Harnessing technology and making this work for you use as hard as possible will be key to business resilience, recovery and survival.

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Author: Nick Hardy

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