Sue Hook, founder and head of client development at Cornwall-based Sapience HR, is reflecting on a business milestone this month; 15 years in business – but the last 15 months have been the most turbulent of all.

She stated: “Quite simply, there has been a seismic shift. The repercussions of what has happened to the way we work as a result of the pandemic will be felt for a generation.”

Since the beginning of the first lockdown in spring 2020, Hook and her team have been proactively helping their clients navigate exponential change as businesses rushed to adapt – reassessing workforce needs in the face of new challenges and opportunities.

“We’ve been constantly on our toes,” she said. “During the early days of the furlough scheme our advice to clients evolved on a daily basis, as government strategy was firmed up and information trickled out. After 15 years in the industry, I’ve never experienced anything like it – and that was just the beginning.”

Home working has been – and will continue to be – the norm for many employees, and that necessitates a major rethinking for many businesses, for example around issues such as monitoring, mental health, the right to disconnect, and employee engagement.

Sapience is supporting employers to put new policies and procedures in place, ensuring they are operating legally and properly support their dispersed workforce.

Hook said: “Employment law was already quite far behind modern working practices before Covid-19 – now it’s decades behind! There need to be some significant changes soon, and I would like to see a lot of it simplified. Parental leave, for example, is unnecessarily complicated and seriously hampers a great many career paths.”

With the majority of businesses reassessing almost every aspect of their operations, Hook sees this as an important moment to reset and recommends that businesses take a brave new approach.

She said: “Every business needs to get the HR basics right but go beyond that and you can really wield ‘people power’ to make a huge difference to your brand, and ultimately your bottom line. One example of this is the hospitality sector; with so many positions available workers can pick and choose, so creating a great working environment is vital for attracting talent.”

Getting workplace culture right will be a major factor in successful business recovery, Hook believes: “To reach their potential, businesses need to focus on embedding positive home working practices, supporting good mental health and wellbeing, looking at future workforce resilience, and excelling in sustainability and equality policy. I predict the busy times will continue for those of us in HR!”

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