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The role of HR in times of uncertainties


HUMAN resources (HR) professionals play a crucial role in responding to economic and political uncertainties. The current business environment demand HR professionals who are proactive and it has become the modus operandi in most businesses that when things go well, management takes the recognition, and when things go poorly, HR is often blamed.

Guest column: Emmanuel Zvada

A sense of uncertainty makes long-term planning difficult and in such a time like this we will see company culture, employee retention and business confidence, be of even greater importance to look at.

However, organisations are supposed to prepare for times of uncertainty and HR managers have to offer advice on how organisations can deal with unrest and increasing unpredictability of the economy. This means that the policies and practices proposed by HR managers should help firms to adjust to hardships as well as move on provided that things stabilise.

For many businesses, political uncertainty can be a drag on confidence. Not knowing what is happening either politically or economically can make it difficult to make long-term decisions. HR is being stretched and pulled especially in times of uncertainties and the gruelling business climate.

HR faces numerous organisational, financial and technological obstacles, particularly during these trying times. Managing through volatile periods requires human resources to be prepared to support an ever-shifting business, at the same time managing costs for organisations. Below are measures that can be taken by HR practitioners to enable companies to stand the test of time especially times of uncertainties:

Cost controlling

HR should also emphasise the importance of efficiency, performance improvement and cost control to the organisation’s survival. Cost controlling is the practice of recognising and reducing business expenses so as to increase profits. It is the responsibility of HR to assisting in trimming organisation expenses at the same time coming up with strategies that ensures the going concern of the organisations.

Boosting productivity without increasing costs requires a combination of employee development programmes and process improvements. HR professionals can utilise a number of tactics to cut HR costs before it becomes an issue and this can be done without sacrificing employee satisfaction or threatening employee retention.

Manage recruitment

In times of uncertainty, it is encouraged for HR practitioners to halt all recruitment activities for a certain period of time. The main intention is to reduce any future payrolls costs which are fixed to the company.

This action will be an attempt to manage human capital costs in times of general economic contraction or in times of uncertainty on the general business environment.

Instead of recruiting in darkness, requests should be evaluated on a case by case basis to assess if the position to be filled is critical. What can also be done is to consider if the position could work on a part-time, job rotation or flexi-time basis. This will also help the organisation when economic conditions improve as they would already have existing employees familiar with company culture and ready to be converted to permanent positions.

Refining value proposition

If there is one thing that is certain about the current business environment, is that there is absolutely nothing that is certain at all. In such a time, organisations should consider value-add or other propositions they can combine with product/service offerings. The reason is that during uncertainty, it is hard to convince people to spend money.

Develop and maintain professional networks

During the times of uncertainty, there is greater need for use of professional and personal networks to share information and provide briefings in key areas such as handling downsizing and redundancies and to identify models of good practice. This use of networks can be formal and informal, but it can help HR managers to sniff how other companies are doing it and also assess if they can also imitate.

During uncertain times, the only way to stabilise business processes is to improve the management level. The managers should be able to achieve the know-how regarding political, social and economic changes rapidly so they can implement new directions inside the company and thus maintain security and stability among employee.

Communicate extensively

Times of uncertainty tend to increase the level of anxiety within the workforce, and it is only natural that staff will have some big questions. Intensive communication creates a strong signal that management is seeking to develop policies which address the interests of employees, even in times of uncertainty.

By so doing allowing employees or their representatives to be actively involved in the formulation and implementation of organisational restructuring plans, is likely to result not only in shared understandings being created between employees and managers, but an effective joint action to restore profitability.

Keeping employees regularly and fully informed of the organisation’s commercial position as well as management’s plans is considered indispensable to maintaining employee commitment and engagement when adjusting to adverse times.

HR is immensely important when your business is against the ropes and it acts as the glue, and keeps your staff, management and business well motivated. With the current politics and the unpredictable changes in economy the world of work going through unpredictable times.

 Emmanuel Zvada is a human capital consultant/international recruitment expert and author. He writes in his own capacity: For comments inbox to emmanuelzvada@webmail.co.za or call +263771467441.

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