“H” stands for being human and “R” stands for being responsive. Many people have asked me the role of HR especially post the pandemic. If I have to simplify, it is just to be human and responsive to every employee who needs help.

Although, it may look simple, the most difficult things in life are the day to day things, which we fail to do consistently every day. Someone once asked me – “What it means to be a professional ?. I had stated that responding always, keep your time and commitment, dressing for the occasion and being empathetic always.

Today I would think its simpler. Just be human, grounded, accessible and respond to the stated and unstated needs of every employee. During this pandemic, quite a few young employees reached out to me and expressed their concerns. I would share two case studies to share their anguish.

The first was a young employee working in an multinational. She reached out to me knowing that I had retired more than two years back from an active corporate role. When I asked – “Why she reached out to me – she said that I was always accessible and she was sure I will respond to her call. She sent me a message on social media and I did respond.

We then had a call and followed up by multiple calls. Her concern was that “work from home” has ruined her work life and personal life. She said that she had to respond to international calls even at 11pm and her spouse was not amused nor were her kids. She said she was more stressed than ever.

The second case was a mid level manager from an Indian corporation. His query was – why is it everyone is under stress nowadays ? Can stressed employees deliver their best ? He went on to state that this sort of stress neither is good for the employees nor the organisation. Again, when I asked why he contacted me as I have not even met him, he said that some of his friends told him that I would respond positively.

The two cases are symptomatic of what is happening in organisations today. Employees, managers and leaders are all under stress. They are finding it difficult to balance work and life and the pandemic has made it more complicated for them as the line between office and home has blurred.

What can “HR” do to help employees ? I would say – lets keep it simple. HR needs to be human and responsive. They need to be accessible to the employee all the time. They need to be empathetic listeners and employee champions. They need to respond to every employee irrespective of them being an introvert or an extrovert, a junior or senior employee in the hierarchy. I would rather say, HR needs to reach out to the quiet employees much more and respond to their needs.

Some may ask – “What it means to be Human ? “. Being empathetic and responding to every employee by putting yourself in their shoes will make you respond in a human way. If we respond the way we expect others to respond when we are in a crisis, is the human way.

It is like the murmuring of birds in the sky. Nobody knows who the leader is or who HR is. They sway together and support each other when attacked by a predatory bird always as in the photo above. HR needs to be like the invisible saviour of the birds in the sky within organisations.

If we are human, grounded, accessible and responsive, HR will be the function, which employees will hail as their messiah in distress. Otherwise, they may wonder as to why HR exists in organisations ?

It is time for HR to be human and responsive always.

S Ramesh Shankar

30th September 2021

5 thoughts on “HR

  1. You hit the nail sir and what a simplistic view you presented here about HR and I love it. From my own experience I can say that you have truly lived by the same. I still recall the day I called you for a pressing personal exigencies and you were on annual leave and in a marriage function at your native place in Kerala but took my call (a colleague told me that you always respond wherever you are). You addressed it immediately and so simple it appeared. I know such experiences live with many of your team mates and associates . Sir as you rightly observed that the stress is frightening and I am deeply pained to see this when I talk to people around but really can’t appreciate the reason for such stress. With such stress do the employees create great values for the organisation (I am sure they can never add value for themselves at least ) ? Didn’t we have stress during our time or we created lesser value for the organisation! 😊 Sometimes I feel it is to do with weak and short-sighted leadership that doesn’t see long term sustainability as a goal but put the entire team to unprotected stress which threaten to destroy human assets of the organisation in a long-term perspective for the organisation . Thanks. 🙏


  2. “What does it mean to be human?” is definitely meant for all. Very well-meaning about birds and future organizational structures.

    Thank you for your article.


  3. Interesting post. I think you’re right. HR professionals are also now sometimes so far removed from the employees that they can’t provide the compassionate support that is required. Too often it’s down to the Line Managers. They may be closer to the employees, but they don’t slways have the skills or confidence to effectively deal with the people management part of their role.

    We shouldn’t forget, though that HR is a management function. But that said, we need to support the people to get the best out of them. I’d they feel happy, safe and supported at work, then the organisation benefits too


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