The Critical Role of HR in the Time of COVID-19

Updated: Jun 4

(Voices, best practices and proudest moments of silent heroes)


By Richard H. Mamuyac



An old saying goes, “Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.”


This generation has never faced a worldwide nightmare like the COVID-19 pandemic. Global economy nosedive... thousands of deaths recorded every day... people turned like prisoners in their own homes… billions of employees effected of the full or partial workplace closures… unimaginable things became realities.


In the midst of fears and uncertainties, hope still exists. We celebrate every small win humanity achieves from inspiring survival stories to good news of a possible cure for the virus to initiatives of organizations and individuals who have gone extra miles in this battle against the unseen enemy.


You need not to go far to witness heroism, how bold or simple the act may be. You can hear about them in the news or read from a Facebook share of a friend. Or you are already sitting beside them now in your respective offices or talking to them via online meeting rooms if you are working from home.


We celebrate the courageous efforts of our frontliners--- military and policemen manning the checkpoints rain or shine, health workers risking their lives, delivery personnel who bring food and supplies to our doorsteps, government employees sending help to every corner of the country---- and pray along with them to finally reach the light at the end of this tunnel.


When the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was implemented in the country, a few businesses continued with there operations while others just resumed recently upon announcement of the modified version of the lockdown. During this period, we have silent heroes who wrestled sleepless nights to plan, prepare and implement their new work set-up; patiently coordinated with government agencies to secure aid for their employees; and needed to stay in the office or temporary workstations away from their families for weeks just to oversee continued workplace productivity.


The role of people managers and HR practitioners has become very critical in how companies can thrive and survive this crisis. While the business owners face the pressures that mount on them to make painful decisions, the men and women in HR hold the key to their organization’s sustainability by keeping intact their most important assets: their people.


To find out how fellow HR professionals from different industries harnessed their creativity and ingenuity to cope with the effects of COVID-19, we asked some of our colleagues to share their best practices and their proudest moments as people managers during these challenging times. The following are the responses that we received:


“As we are living in unprecedented times, HR sheds light and inspires hope to the leadership. It is normal for the leaders to think of numbers and sustainability of business but we are in the position to put “human” and “humanity” back in a pivotal focus through administration of engagement, compensation and benefits and care.”

Mr. Gilberto S. Gatdula

Senior Manager for TQM & Learning

Dusit Thani Manila


“As an HR practitioner, I am most proud of how, despite the challenges we faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, we never lost sight of our commitment to putting people first. When the pandemic brought major upheaval in the industry, HR was pushed to the forefront along with company leaders to navigate unknown waters. We are in the war room to create a blueprint for the company to survive. HR is in the frontline as well, helping organizations to adapt and respond to this crisis. Specifically, we are crafting the transition to working from a Filipino Home, as well as ensuring that anxious employees are well-informed so as to maintain the employee morale and help manage mental fatigue. With these measures, I believe we are empowering our people to not just endure, but adapt to the new normal and even thrive in it.”

Ms. Jane Janette A. Jabagat

President

Nezda Technologies, Inc.


“As an HR practitioner working in a hospital, COVID-19 brought out the servant leader in each of us. We fought the pandemic with our people and for our people. HR was needed by the employees more than ever. We adjusted our work schedules to accommodate more hours and include more days. We arranged for free transportation and accommodation, provided free meals and vitamins, and computed for additional risk allowances for all employees. Aside from the additional tasks, we had to re-invent ourselves. We had to be more proactive with our employee benefits, more innovative in our learning programs, and more creative in our recruitment pitches.”

Mr. Ian Kevin C. Balete

HR Supervisor

Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital


“I am most proud and gratified that our team, together with top management, have set up systems to ensure that our associates are financially well cared for throughout this period; and a "kamustahan" Network (K-Network) that keeps each and every employee connected to one another (for emotional, social, physical needs/necessities support) in order to ensure everyone's health and wellness.”

Ms. Cecille Ramos-Carlos

People and OD Practitioner

Daikin Airconditioning Philippines (DPH)


“I am proud to share in spite all the challenges and worries we are encountering being part of the learning, development and engagement team, we've successfully created engagement programs on line to keep our employees happy and connected while learning from each other and having fun. We also cascaded agile learning courses which have adjusted to the current situation which is learner centric and gamified to keep the interests of the participants there in spite of the distance from the facilitator.”

Ms. Janine Roxanne Catanjal

Training Expert

Globe Telecom


“Pinaka proud ako sa mga salamat na natatanggap ko araw araw. Minsan isa dalawa pero kahit ilan man alam ko na I made someone feel better, one interaction at a time.”

Mr. Ram Alejandrino

HR Senior Manager

Alorica


“This crisis was one of the worst that hit the world. Our organization was not prepared for this. I am proud that despite our inexperience, the HR team was able to rise to the challenge and help our associates in the best way possible.”

Mr. Joan Chung

People and Culture Director

Expressions Stationery Shop, Inc.


“I am most proud that through this crisis, we have highlighted the importance of HR in our organization and its crucial role in taking care of the human element in corporate sustainability. It is a fulfilling experience that in our organization we are able to keep our employees safe, provide assistance despite the distance, and secure their jobs despite the great impact that this crisis has brought to the business.”

Ms. Liza Arceo

HR Specialist

PHINMA Properties


“At the onset of Covid-19, we mobilized HR teams to provide transportation, food, accommodation, hazard pay, early 13th month pay, free parking & groceries to our associates wherein some of them are frontliners. Through this, they appreciated HR's effort to support them. Likewise, they became really proud to be working with St. Luke's Medical Center because of management's care and concern especially during this time of crisis.”

Ms. Cynthia Lynne Y. Sarayba

HR Business Partner

St. Luke's Medical Center


“During this COVID-19 pandemic, I’m proud of how I’ve been productive by being hands-on to our frontliners by addressing their concerns and being part of our COPE Team (Caring for Others with Positivity and Encouragement). It’s really gratifying to see our employees became optimistic and motivated to go to work despite of COVID-19 by doing our part as Human Resources Professional. As such, we made them feel they’re truly appreciated and we are one in this situation.”

Mr. Con De Ocampo

HR Officer

St Luke’s Medical Center


“Through this pandemic crisis, as an HR, I realized how essential the HR in an organization is. The human resource goes beyond its mere definition, it becomes a primary reservoir of communication among employees. I have reached out and contacted our construction workers, janitors, messengers, and security guard to check and look into their conditions as they are among vulnerable sectors most affected by this national health emergency. I and our HR team have become a vehicle of grace and good news to our employees every time we communicated to them. In addition, this pandemic thought me how to humanize the organization in a little way, keeping connected to employees really an HR matter.”

Mr. Bonn Relly Atienza

HR Specialist

Phinma Property Holdings Corp.


“I am the proudest when I was able to complete the guidelines for the New Normal and presented it to the Management and was approved. Also am so proud of assisting our employees for the process of their loan applications to our in house cooperative and would tell me, "ako na bahala sa yo sir pag na approved ito" and with a smile I will replied, "sir it is my job to help you specially in this trying time"

Mr. Howell B. Calma

HR Suprevisor

Clark Electric Distribution Corporation


The magnitude of the impact brought about by the coronavirus pandemic is an enormous challenge across the globe. While we continue to thrive and heal in the midst of waves of disruptions, many organizations were able to respond to protect their people and create initiatives to minimize the economic damage in the best way they can.


Thank you to all the HR professionals who shared their stories of dedication and commitment in supporting their people and organization through these challenging times. We’re all in this together. We heal as one.


(With contributions from PMAP Training Specialist Eshe Lalongisip)


About the Writer:


Richard H. Mamuyac is the Training Manager of the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP). He is one of the founding administrators of the Filipino Bloggers Network (FBN) with more than 2,000 members to date. He is a former business columnist of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, film reviewer for The Philippine Star and Sportswriter for the Marianas Variety

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