A month before Axios declared this, Maven’s VP of People, Karsten Vagner, took to BenefitsPro to talk about how HR leaders have been rising to the occasion:

The crises of 2020 are many—the pandemic and its horrific toll, the devastating economic recession, this summer’s painful reckoning with racial injustice. For businesses, they are also all fundamentally human, and have resulted in wave after wave of people-related challenges, none of which we’ve fully addressed. HR has necessarily been front and center in responding to these crises as they arose, but putting out fires is not the sole function of a good HR team. It’s anticipating the challenges still to come, putting policies in place that demonstrate empathy and seizing opportunities presented by crisis, building trust with employees at every step.

Indeed, as companies have struggled to navigate the crises of this year, HR teams are operating like the nervous, cardiovascular, and immune systems all in one: ensuring employees feel supported to do their jobs and stay healthy, while helping push the business forward in a volatile economy during a divisive election cycle.

Innovative HR and benefits leaders have risen to the occasion, enacting flexible policies and offering new benefits and policies to drive engagement and maintain productivity, reduce turnover from particularly vulnerable employee populations, and fill gaps left by COVID-19, whether for help with child care, mental health support, or access to telemedicine. They are taking decisive action because they understand the stakes to the business:

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Companies like Microsoft have offered parents additional paid leave for child care, to take time to set up their kids for remote schooling, or just extra time with family. Others like Bank of America and Fidelity are upping their child care reimbursements provided to employees. And companies like Boston Scientific with many employees on-site in addition to those who are now remote, have found their employees want more opportunities to connect with each other, and are leveraging internal employee resource groups and starting what they call Wellness Circles to virtually bring together groups of employees with similar interests.

As our VP of People highlighted and Axios echoed, “HR has been elevated from a back-office function to a C-suite conversation.”

Today’s best-in-class companies recognize that managing through and thriving through these difficult times requires a people-centric strategy that’s empathetic and responsive to employee needs, and proactive in shaping the workplace of the future.

As this wild year begins to come to a close, let’s not forget to recognize the critical role HR teams continue to play in helping us all through, and in positioning companies for a better 2021.

“HR has necessarily been front and center in responding to these crises as they arose, but putting out fires is not the sole function of a good HR team. It’s anticipating the challenges still to come, putting policies in place that demonstrate empathy and seizing opportunities presented by crisis, building trust with employees at every step.”

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