02 Aug 2021

In a post-COVID-19 world, it’s time to look after the people looking after you…

We almost certainly all know people who have lost jobs or even loved ones as a direct or indirect result of the pandemic, and we have definitely all experienced the type of turmoil - unprecedented in our lifetimes – caused by the stress of working in uncertainty and constantly changing conditions. And then there’s the home-schooling, the working from home and getting to grips with the technology this entails – but there’s also the lockdown, the guilt or fears over the spreading pandemic, the loss of freedoms we’d taken for granted and the gradual erosion of everything we’d learned to accept as normal.

As a professional network for membership organisations, memcom is a uniquely placed organisation in the breadth and depth of our exposure to organisations across the membership sphere. We work at different levels of organisations, exploring both the macro, the key threats or themes affecting the sector as a whole, and the micro through our networking, consultancy and recruitment with individual organisations. We don’t just work with Chief Executives, but throughout organisations. We’ve watched, assisted and advised on organisational restructures, helped guess longer-term trends and fumbled our way through the darkness. One constant throughout this ever-changing landscape of pandemic twists and turns has been the pressure on the human resources teams to provide knowledge, stability and a sense of order, whilst all around them were losing their heads.


David Blackburn

we are all now waking up to the crucial role of our people, HR and people management

David Blackburn, Chief People Officer at the Financial Services Compensation Scheme says that we’ve just been through "a year unlike any other for all of us: our colleagues, our friends, our families, and our organisations, and we are all now waking up to the crucial role of our people, HR and people management.” He too believes that HR professionals have probably suffered more than most other departments, and sums up the challenges they’ve faced: “people management is contextual and situational, not a set of objective static standards like finance or engineering. It’s an ever fluid collection of activities reflecting the needs of our time.” Small wonder, perhaps, that organisations have relied more heavily on their HR teams than ever before.


One of the core activities here at memcom is our suite of different networking events. During the first 6 months of the pandemic, we replaced a quarterly in-person HR Directors’ networking session with a weekly online meet up, where the attendees would share what kept them awake at night and offer support and advice to their peers. We’re proud of the work that we’ve achieved and the friendships we’ve built just by being there for our community when they needed us most, and through them, we’ve directly understood the challenges they’ve all faced and the toll it’s taken.


If you’re reading this as a non-HR professional, spare a thought for how tough it’s been. Like you, they will have experienced all of the same challenges associated with moving from office-based to working from home, juggling familial needs against work commitments. Like you, they’ll have been worrying about loved ones against a backdrop of uncertainty. But on top of this, they’ve had to rewrite policies for such unprecedented times, plan budget cuts, restructures and reduced or extended hours, organise training for new ways of working, come up with plans for a hybrid and more flexible working, deal with disciplinaries and performance-related issues. They’ve had to get to grips with furlough, holiday, pensions and plans for a return to the office, deal with an upsurge in mental health and physical health concerns. They’ve also had to persuade senior managers to accept change, to upskill colleagues for a digital age, to argue for compassionate decision-making in a context of tough economic times – and they’ve had to make people redundant at a time the UK was teetering on the edge of a precipice. And as non-income generational roles, many of our friends have done all this in the knowledge that they too would soon be losing their jobs.


Post COVID-19, as David Blackburn reminds us, “HR and people management must ensure businesses choose the right path into a better future for all. The time has come for HR professionals to stop reacting and start leading.” There are once-in-a-generation opportunities to rebuild sustainable organisations, tackle real issues surrounding equality, diversity, inclusion and access, to champion social mobility and address digital poverty, to look at the way organisations currently work and explore how they can do better.


The memcom workstreams on Sustainability and EDI are great forums for decision makers from across the spectrum to share ideas of a brave new world. They tackle everything from changing governance structures to adopting a genuine values-based culture, from ending inequalities to the future shape of the workforce. In short, they’re a great place for CEOs and HR Directors to share their dreams and aspirations for a brighter future.


But we’re also delighted to announce that thanks to the generosity of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), winners of National and International recognition for their innovative and leading-edge approach to people management, we’re able to relaunch the memcom People Academy, a safe space for the next generation of revolutionary HR leaders. It’s completely free to attend, for members and non-members of memcom alike, and designed by HR professionals for the sector they represent. If you haven’t checked it out, click on the above link.


We also have two other HR networks which we invite you to join, to offer each other support and gain valuable insight into what other organisations are doing. Offering a final word to David Blackburn, Chief People Officer of the FSCS: “… It has never been as important as right now that we, as people leaders, figure out how to hold onto our role at the very heart of our organisations, and never let go!  We need to develop, encourage and equip the next generation of HR professionals to ensure that we are shaping a truly diverse and inclusive future of work for all…”