Curves Ahead: The Changing Role of HR and the Hourly Workforce

September 19, 2020 - minute read

HR professionals are very adept at dealing with change. One generation of workers retires; another steps up to the plate. Recruiting methods change. HR software changes. And heaven knows, compliance regulations change. But as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the role of HR is changing at an accelerated rate, particularly for organizations that manage an hourly workforce.

The hourly workforce—and the workplace itself—is not the same as it was pre-COVID. As companies pivot in their quest to survive and thrive, it’s often up to HR to translate their new priorities into on-the-ground realities. In our view, HR pros of the near future will be modifying their roles in a number of ways, including these.

Attending More Closely to Worker Well-Being

There is no question that the pandemic has taken a toll on the American psyche. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Tracking Poll conducted this summer, 53% of respondents reported increased worry and stress due to coronavirus.

For hourly workers—who often shoulder financial pressures at the best of times—anxiety is likely to run even higher. If they’re also frontline workers, as in the janitorial and manufacturing industries, heightened risk of exposure to COVID-19 may further compound their stress.

Employers who fail to address their workers’ anxiety do so at their own peril. As we know, stressed-out workers are distracted, unproductive, accident-prone workers. It will largely fall to HR to take the initiative here: enhancing mental-health programs and benefits, training managers and coworkers to recognize signs of anxiety and depression.

As the Harvard Business Review has noted, some companies are already creating new HR positions in this space, giving them titles such as “Wellness Manager” and “Director of Employee Well-Being.” This is a smart move. Beyond safeguarding productivity, enhancing employee well-being may be a powerful hiring and retention tool.

Fully Embracing HR Analytics

Over the last few years, more HR departments are realizing that metrics aren’t the soul province of other departments. Now, as employers fight to remain profitable, leveraging HR analytics has taken on new urgency.

Why are our labor costs so high? How do we get a handle on turnover? Which teams and worksites are performing better than the others, and why? These are questions HR analytics can answer, allowing employers to continually optimize their hourly workforce.

In addition, HR analytics allow human resource departments to do their jobs more efficiently—from identifying where their best recruits are originating to quantifying their hiring cycle.

While most HR pros are people-driven, they’ll do well to become more data-driven as well, HR analytics will become a must-have, instead of a nice-to-have.

Championing State-of-the-Art Online Training

While many employers are already migrating from live training to online learning management systems—hastened by COVID—forward-thinking HR professionals will accelerate the trend.

In the short-term, increased absenteeism will continue to exacerbate the need for adept, cross-trained workers who can jump in for their coworkers as needed. In addition, there will be an ongoing need for ad hoc health and safety training as experts learn more about the disease.

Long-term, jobs are poised to change in many industries. Increased automation, technology, and AI is coming, and hourly workers will need to adapt. Before it fully arrives, HR pros would do well to master the latest training technology, see how their current system stacks up, and become their employers’ e-learning champions.

Leveraging HCM Technology as a Labor Compliance Tool

HR departments have long acknowledged that good HCM software makes their jobs easier, facilitating recruiting, onboarding, benefits enrollment, etc. However, great HCM software is also a powerful labor compliance tool, particularly for employers that manage an hourly workforce.

As new labor laws continue to be enacted at the federal, state, and local levels at a breakneck pace, savvy HR pros will lean into the systems’ compliance capabilities. For example, powerful HR and payroll software can:

  • Help employers comply with myriad paid sick leave and predictive scheduling laws—which are only likely to multiply as more states adopt them.
  • Automatically ensure hourly workers are paid correctly—even when juggling complexities such as split shifts, hazard pay, and a multi-union workforce.
  • Detect when managers are changing time-cards—an FLSA violation that’s hard to pinpoint.
  • Streamline mandated OSHA training, sexual harassment training, etc.—another growing area of legislation.  
  • Automatically generate ACA, quarterly payroll forms, and W2s on the employer’s behalf.

Hats Off to the HR Pros of Today…and Tomorrow

At EPAY, we work with many remarkable HR leaders. In our experience, they’re proactive, fast on their feet, and quick to roll with the punches. In this unprecedented time of change, we’re confident that they can pivot to meet whatever challenges come their way. And we’ll be ready to support them and their employers, with flexible, adaptable HCM software that is designed for hourly workers and already offers future-forward capabilities. See for yourself.

Filed Under: COVID-19 HR Management