The CHRO’s ability to guide strategy, be empathetic and focus on skills will be crucial for companies coming out of the Covid-19 crisis. 


During the financial crisis of 2008, businesses turned to their CFOs for a way out. With the coronavirus pandemic, however, it will be the CHRO leading businesses out of the crisis.


Over the next three months, offices will reopen with a managed return to the office – with the CHRO at the heart of this, HR will need to be crystal clear about the role it’s going to play.


The operation will be a challenging one, particularly with employers facing continued uncertainty. There will be three key areas to consider – firstly, returning safely; secondly, returning to stability; third, the return to energy or full productivity.


With HR at the heart of making sure these things happen effectively, the CHRO role will be the driving force of the post-Covid workplace return.


Strategic guidance


The next 12 to 18 months will be a rollercoaster for employees as companies digest the full impact of the pandemic. Some employees will be central to how companies adapt to their new realities and some employees will be impacted as companies restructure and rebalance their workforce.  The CHRO will shape the company’s response, and have the most significant strategic impact when it comes to the ‘return to energy’ phase: motivating and re-energising staff.


The CHRO will not just need to help lead the company but will also play a role in influencing how other members of the leadership team respond. The growth of empathy and flexibility has been a key tenet of the crisis and business leaders will need to continue to be personal and transparent in their connections with employees – the CHRO’s role in encouraging this will be crucial.


Growing role for empathy


Empathetic leaders are invested in the future and the sustainability of the business, and the people agenda is top of mind for them. They listen rather than just talk, and they sense what’s going on using both data and their own instincts. As a result, when they say something, it’s much more meaningful to people.


When they take action, there’s a subtlety – they veer away from a ‘direct and control’ approach and instead ensure action is taken throughout the organisation via a more empowering style. It’s about providing principles and guidance by which people can do what they judge to be right, rather than relying on rules.


We’ll see more of a focus on EQ, which will need to be combined with the usual focus on IQ. We will see leaders adapting and putting people at the heart of organisations more than they did in the past. The CHRO role will be the one that organisations rely on to both make this happen and enable a business to come through this crisis. A different style of leadership will emerge as a result.


Skills enable reinvention


Skills are key to building resilience – even before Covid-19, they were identified as the top bet for leadership teams in building a return on investment. CHROs have known this for a long time.


Identification and mapping of skills gives an organisation the ability to transfer people from areas where they’re no longer needed to areas with a talent shortage, all within the context of hiring freezes and headcount reductions; those lacking this ability will suffer.


Fully understanding the skills you need for the future and the skills you have now, and being able to move people around the organisation, is going to be incredibly important. For employees, it’s a route to financial security - although transparency is required around the skills they will need to be relevant for the future, and an understanding of how to get there.


For more information or advice about any of the issues raised please contact Jen Saunders or Christopher Johnson. 


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