5 key areas HR needs to focus on during COVID-19

HR policies and practices are constantly being reviewed and reshaped, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change the way we work.
By: | May 27, 2020

By Sujay Bhat, HR Technology Strategy Advisor, SAP SuccessFactors

The COVID-19 situation has sent HR teams into overdrive. These are some of the areas that HR is currently focusing on.

Policy & Process Realignment

HR teams are now spending considerable time in realignment of critical policies/processes around employee working models (i.e. split teams, work from home or full BCP plans), infrastructure needed to support new working models, benefits structures, compensation models, sales incentive structures, insurance coverage requirements, sick leave entitlements, financial allowances in certain cases, employee assistance programmes and assistance to special groups and case management services for suspected or confirmed cases.

Regular employee sentiment analysis helps understand gaps and refine policy/communication to bridge these gaps. All these new policies and processes need to be accommodated into existing HR technology platforms with great agility to ensure business continuity.


All the above policy changes need considerable analysis via scenario modelling. Multiple data points such as people data, sales data and costs, are required to be able to prepare, share and iterate these models before they can be approved.

In some cases, data needs to be readily available to be shared with external sources to enable policy and programme changes. If the pandemic continues for over the next 12-18 months, then organisations must make several changes to optimise costs, and enhance sales effectiveness and customer support.

Costs pressure and unpredictability of revenues will have an implication on employment levels, employment contracts, fixed pay and variable pay programmes. Integrated HR Technology platforms will be critical to ensure time availability, accuracy and analysis of data to provide the right insights to aide decision making.


In such times, over-managing your communications strategy is ideal. HR Teams are continuously communicating confirmed policy changes, guidelines around travel restrictions, regular updates from business leaders, ongoing pulse checks to understand employee’s sentiments, and ways to bridge gaps in employee experience.

Communication also includes sharing critical information from credible third-party sources to educate employees and build overall awareness for the health and well-being of employees. Collaborative HR technology tools enabling aggregation of information onto a single platform and online forums are critical to maintain transparent communication across the organisation.


Given the change in the way we work and deliver goods and services, considerable upskilling will be required for employees to work in a completely remote working environment. New technology tools will have to be mastered in short periods of time to ensure continuity of services to our customers.

Learning technology platforms will also be essential in driving learning interventions to enable new ways of working and ensure business continuity.

Sales effectiveness learning will be critical for sales team to effectively deliver value virtually to their customers. Many organisations, given changes in business models, have a need to hire rapidly to meet demand surges and onboarding learning will be critical to ensure productivity of new hires.

Organisations need to rapidly scale content development for learning by taping on internal subject matter experts (SMEs) to create bespoke content. MOOCs provides a ready source of relevant content, be it internal or external content. Existing technology platforms need to be flexible to connect and channel learning to the right recipients.

HR Operations

HR operations will have to continue with minimum or no service disruption, albeit with changes to working conditions. Shared services centres in lower wage cost countries could be drastically impacted by lockdowns and work from home mandates.

HR operations will now need to be managed remotely i.e. from home via remote login to be able to process transactions. HR teams will have to work with IT Teams to enable remote HR operations.

Operating service-level agreements need to be calibrated to accommodate work from home and remote access to HR Technology platforms. More and more HR transactions will have to be moved to a self-service mode and integrated HR Technology will play a critical part in this move.


In the coming months, HR will have to continue to adapt to new ways of working, which will be driven by physical distancing, evolved business delivery models, shorter planning cycles and adherence to new statutory guidelines to limit the spread of the virus.

Agile policy creation will have to be complemented with agile policy execution and technology will be a non-negotiable execution platform. In a way, COVID-19 has propelled digital technology transformation from the backroom to the virtual boardroom.