HR needs support too, says association

HR needs support too, says association

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Senior staff reporter
dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, September 18, 2020

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Head of the Human Resource Management Association of Jamaica (HRMAJ) Lois Walters is appealing to companies to pay particular attention to their human resource staff who, she stressed, are on the front lines as the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold. She is concerned that HR staff, who play a major supporting role in many organisations, are themselves not being adequately supported.

“They are front line workers; they have to break the news (about which staff member died and which got infected by the virus). HR is now front and centre. That is something that people don't necessarily stop to think about,” Walters told the Jamaica Observer.

She spoke of the importance of HR teams receiving support from the top levels of their organisations.

“It can be a lot for the HR practitioner. HR is like the middle person, they have to support management and leadership and they also have to support the worker. And so they are being pulled from all different directions... so you have to pay attention to them,” she added.

Assessing the changes in the Jamaican working environment since March 10 when the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in the country, Walters said it was perhaps more necessary than ever that HR practitioners be given some of the care they often dispense.

“They might need counselling themselves, because of the weight [of the responsibilities they face]. How do you motivate someone who has to motivate people? That's where HRMAJ comes in. They can call on us and we will help them with some form of employee assistance. We know of counsellors we can refer them to, we can also be that kind of support for them,” she told the Observer.

She explained that the HRMAJ believes it is especially crucial, now, to support and celebrate HR professionals as they grapple with changes in the world of work.

“Sometimes people don't realise how important HR is. We have been saying that over the years, but people [didn't] realise until now. To work from home you need a performance management system, you need to know where your workers are, occupational health and safety might fall to the HR personnel because that's part of employee relations,” the association head pointed out.

Walters' push for support being provided to HR staff is in line with earlier comments made by professor of sychiatry, Dr Wendel Abel, as he spoke during a virtual conference put on by the Jamaica Psychiatric Association in May.

“A friend of mine said to me [that]... we have forgotten our guidance counsellors in the school environment. They are under tremendous pressure; and of course in organisations the human resource practitioners [have been forgotten],” Dr Abel noted then. “When organisations go through change, they have to be dealing with the psychological issues and have to be making decisions in terms of who to let go, who to put on no-pay-leave, who to return. The days ahead are going to be very busy for these individuals. So while they will need to take care of the emotional needs of the organisation, they too have a need to be addressed.”

In her interview with the Observer, Walters also spoke of management's role in helping staff cope when there have been job cuts or persons have been laid off.

“If you and I are working together and we laugh and talk and then tomorrow because of COVID, I am no longer there, there is going to be grief, anxiety [as persons are wondering], 'Am I next?'. So there has to be communication and openness with staff. It is important to share with them strategies of how they can cope. Everybody goes through change, but transition management is key and you have to help them manage,” she pointed out.

Walters said this support is imperative for both staff who are let go and those who are retained.


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