Covid-19 Impact on HR : How Digital HR can support People Operations in times of crises?

““Every year, we try to analyse global macro-level social and economic trends to make predictions about the future of work. And now, living a global pandemic that has changed the way we work overnight.””

 Rémi Malenfant

By Rémi Malenfant , HR Transformation Services , PeopleDoc by Ultimate Software

Every year, we try to analyse global macro-level social and economic trends to make predictions about the future of work. We hoped to identify big topics that every HR leader must keep in mind to prepare their organisation for the years to come. And now, we are facing a massive public health crisis that no one saw coming. We are living a global pandemic that has changed the way we work overnight.

We talk a lot about trust and how it has become a key topic in the workplace. In their Trust Barometer, Edelman shows that we are currently facing a trust crisis. People don’t trust governments and/or the media. You just have to open any newspapers to see riots and protests all around the globe. What is surprising though is that at the same time, people have never trusted their employers more. When asked, 76% of people say that the institution they trust the most is their employer; not the business world in general, but their own direct employer. This is putting a lot of pressure on employers and HR around the world, but this is also a great responsibility and a great opportunity for HR to shine and protect this level of trust.

When we now look at the current crisis, we can see how this actually reflects in real life. For instance, many companies have reorganised work shifts and moved to a total remote working solution when possible, even before governments enforced it.

Months later, even though the crisis has not yet come to an end; many countries have started their journey back to “normal”, whatever normal really is. We wanted to reflect on how the crisis has reshaped the role of HR and how HR can actually support employees in difficult times like these.

3 main areas were crucial for HR during the most recent months of the crisis:

  1. Communicating with employees to ensure they have the right level of information and support
  2. Enforcing health and safety policies to protect employees
  3. Managing to have most employees work from home very quickly


As experts in HR, we asked ourselves how the digital HR tools we use like PeopleDoc, could help HR during this crisis in these 3 main areas. We asked Alexis Charrier who is responsible for the BI and Data Analytics team at PeopleDoc by Ultimate Software to share his thoughts with us.

Communicate with employees thanks to the Knowledge Base

We first had a look at our Knowledge Base which is the main point of entry for employees looking for answers to their questions. With the PeopleDoc Knowledge Base, HR teams can share information to employees via different articles that are personalised based on employee attributes; so for instance you can have a specific policy for remote workers and for people who have to go into the office. Personalisation is key in a time like this where we are all surrounded by lots of noise and uncertainty.

According to Alexis Charrier, “We have seen that our customers created dedicated content for the Covid-19 situation and employees are reading it: With an increase in views of over 25,000% between February and March. Currently, Covid-19-related articles are way more popular than other articles”. 

It is no surprise that this indicates that customers are using the Knowledge Base as an important source of information for employees who are reading it more and more to get official communication from HR and leadership.  

In parallel to that, we know that most companies have been communicating a lot with employees through video-conferencing tools, e-mails or videos. While these communication tools are very efficient to keep a connection between employees and managers, it’s also key to have a place where employees can go and check for information when they want or when they have the time which can be challenging when the whole family is stuck at home. 

Getting quick feedback to employee requests in time of crisis

      We then had a look at our employee portal and in particular our Case Management tool that allows employees to raise requests with HR directly from their desktop, mobile or tablet. 

In a normal situation, the Case Management module helps us to manage all the requests we get from employees in a more effective way by sending them automatically to the correct contact or by allowing them to prioritise topics and organise the workload of our People Ops teams. In a time of crisis, this has also helped us to get back to employees more quickly and efficiently and to be able to manage the high volumes of cases being raised to the HR teams in a very short period of time.  

According to Alexis Charrier, the number of employee requests about Covid-19 is growing very fast: A rise of over 6900% between February and March. “The trend is not decreasing. Winter is still coming for HR teams”, he adds. 


Employees had a lot of questions about their security, whether or not they could go into the office, what happens to their time off, how to work from home… and so on. To be able to get on top of all of this is a very difficult task for People Operations Teams. By leveraging a Case management system, they can automate the most recurring questions and save time to dig further into unprecedented situations.


Prepare employees to Work From Home

For many people, the global health crisis has put us in a new situation: working from home. Even though many companies have been doing this for years, for many other organisations, this was completely new. We are not talking about having some people work from home from time to time but in some cases to have the whole organisation work from home while schools are closed and without any preparation or training. Quite a challenge for HR!

We had a look at this specific topic and how we could leverage PeopleDoc to manage WFH. Alexis Charrier says that “We can see an acceleration in the number of employee requests related to remote work but numbers are not so big when you compare them with other Covid-19 related requests. Why is that? As we can see in the graph “Articles about Home Working”, companies have been preparing their teams to work remotely for quite some time already. The topic is not completely new, but the Covid-19 situation is accelerating it”. 


We had conversations with many HR professionals about this in recent weeks. They also said that even though Remote Work is not a new topic for them, the fact that so many people were forced to work from home was a challenge from an IT-perspective but also in terms of management, health and safety and employee motivation. Now that so many people have been able to experience it, the question is “is working from home going to be the new normal for most people?”. It’s hard to predict the future but one thing is clear for HR professionals, we can’t organise our services with the primary focus on people going into the office. The digital and mobile employee experience has to come first!



 Rémi Malenfant

PeopleDoc by Ultimate Software is committed to putting people first. The PeopleDoc HR Service Delivery platform helps HR teams upgrade the employee experience, improve HR agility, and ease compliance management. PeopleDoc’s cloud solutions provide employee case management, knowledge portal, process automation, employee file management, and eVault capabilities. PeopleDoc is part of Ultimate Software, a leading global provider of cloud-based human capital management solutions serving more than 6,600 customers worldwide. For more information please visit www.people-doc.com.


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