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Opportunity awaits the innovators

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Willingly or kicking and screaming, companies have turned to innovation to succeed in the face of massive global changes.

If Tom Hammond has any say in the matter, human resources will take advantage of the opportunity to promote best strategies for talent management, such as outsourcing. Hammond is Paychex’s vice president of corporate strategy and product management. From there he helps organizations navigate the new business landscape.

Hammond talked with Meghan M. Biro, analyst, brand strategist, podcaster and chief executive officer of TalentCulture, about productivity, seeking outside help, and overall leadership during a crisis.

Where remote work is not the norm, employees struggle to adjust and be productive. This is where those in Human Resources can take the initiative and give remote workers the same support as if they were in any other office in corporate headquarters. That includes human interaction. With today’s technology, there’s no excuse for anything less.

“HR can’t drop the ball because employees are home,” Biro said. “Find the means and set the course to stay present and proactive. To help employees, we need to put their questions front and center right now. Taking care of our employees should be HR’s most pressing concern.

“With HR in daily contact with a remote workforce, we can stay productive, accountable,” she said. “Practice frequent encouragement, check-ins, greetings, recognition, quick hellos and social moments. Stay in touch with managers. Communication is the lifeblood.”

Hammond hopes leaders will rise above the basics.

“Now is the time for over communicating,” he said. “HR should reach out to employees and encourage managers to do so frequently. Daily check-ins are a great way to make sure work is on track and that—more importantly—employees are doing OK.

“Make sure employees have the right tools and tech to stay in touch and get the job done,” Hammond said. “Whether it’s a collaboration tool, video conferencing app or secure access to digital company files, employees need to be able to connect remotely.”

Be simple, be human

If these solutions aren’t available, he said more realistic goals and expectations need to be set.

“Give your managers the support and direction they need to engage with a newly remote workforce,” Hammond said. “At Paychex we delivered a webinar focused on the four pillars of effective remote management. 

“I’ve never experienced world conditions like this in my lifetime,” he said. “Supporting workers is as simple as being human. We’re all struggling to adapt to this ‘new normal.’ Treating your employees like people has never been more important.”

Paradoxically, companies that paid lip service to the notion that people are their best assets are finding out it was true all along.

“It’s certainly true at Paychex,” Hammond said. “Our people are 100 percent the reason we’re able to continue to serve our customers. I’ve been there a long time and never been prouder.”

Outsourcing HR functions can effectively help organizations. Many services do not need to be performed on site. If the objection is not being able to sort and store paperwork, for years the vow has been to move to a paperless workplace. Now is the time to make that happen.

“HR is at the epicenter of the world crisis,” Hammond said. “They’re getting questions they might face once or twice a career. They’re being stretched in ways they haven’t before—and they need help. That’s where the true value of HR outsourcing comes in.

“Opting to outsource HR completely or augment a department might seem like you’re giving up control, but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said. “Outsourcing HR means more support, offloading administrative activities that are bogging you down, and gaining a partner to help navigate times like these.”

Think of opportunities

Hammond noted that complex questions come to Paychex HR service professionals from clients every day, exposing new opportunities and ways of thinking.

“Outsource HR for practical problems such as when people are remote, how to get employees online and communicating so they can work,” Biro said. “How do you get nonessential employees logged in when they were used to punching a time card? That’s so important.

“Organizations need solid guardrails on leave policies, compliance, new laws and changing regulations,” she said. “Plus, how do you answer that universal employee question: What happens if I get sick? Outsourcing can provide guidance that’s accurate and up to date.”

There are also new money issues.

“How do I complete an application for the Payment Protection Program?” Biro said. “Can my organization get relief? What about loan forgiveness? All vital business questions, but it’s hard to navigate the complexity without outside expertise.”

Sound HR strategies take natural disasters into account. The only surprise should be the timing. Leaders must ensure tried and tested contingency plans are in place, ready to enact when all hell breaks loose. 

“How many of us have led through a pandemic before?” Biro said. “Leaders need to be able to have a partner—to help clearly interpret the legislation so they can set the best policies and offer authentic reassurances and make the hard choices.

“We’re seeing examples every day of leaders stepping up—or not,” she said. “Don’t get me started on the tragedy wrought by the meatpacking industry. On the other hand, New Zealand’s prime minister? She’d make a great CEO.”

Smart with outsourcing

At their basics, many problems are similar, regardless of size.

“Leaders have been comfortable outsourcing certain aspects of HR such as payroll and benefits,” Biro said. “The issues we face now are on a whole different scale, but outsourcing can help tackle them just as efficiently and effectively.

“Leadership challenges pre-pandemic were already tough,” she said. “There were talent crises, skills gaps, supply chain fragility, improving culture, compliance … remember? Then came the big change. With so many new burdens, HR outsourcing is a smart strategy.”

Those reluctant to adapt to changes might just get swept away by the tide.

“Digital transformation and innovation are happening at warp speed,” Hammond said. “Company goals are going to be drastically different than a few months ago. More than ever, HR needs to play a leading role in strategic planning.

“Employers have been introduced to complexities they likely haven’t experienced,” he said. “HR is uniquely positioned to take a lead role in shaping strategy. You’re the employee experts, pay experts and regulatory experts. You’re among the unsung heroes of this time. Own it.”

To emphasize his point Hammond reiterated that HR “should always play a critical role in shaping business strategy.”

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Jim Katzaman
Jim Katzaman is a manager at Largo Financial Services. A writer by trade, he graduated from Lebanon Valley College, Pennsylvania, with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He enlisted in the Air Force and served for 25 years in public affairs – better known in the civilian world as public relations. He also earned an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science in Public Affairs. Since retiring, he has been a consultant and in the federal General Service as a public affairs specialist. He also acquired life and health insurance licenses, which resulted in his present affiliation with Largo Financial Services. In addition to expertise in financial affairs, he gathers the majority of his story content from Twitter chats. This has led him to publish about a wide range of topics such as social media, marketing, sexual harassment, workplace trends, productivity and financial management. Medium has named him a top writer in social media.

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