As 1.5 million South Africans return to work this week, risk-adjusted regulations have been gazetted for employers; these include the provision of two cloth masks for every employee, adhering to social distancing and having hand sanitisers readily available.

Numerous government relief measures have also been put in place: the most recent of which is R2.4 billion of funding that has been made available to employers to help keep businesses afloat during this transition time. Other measures such as debt relief finance scheme for SMEs include R200 billion loan scheme with major banks as well as R70 billion in tax relief for businesses that have a gross income of less than R50 million per annum.

While the government should be lauded for instituting these relief measures, the ease of adjustment and adherence to the new regulations on a practical level remains to be seen. It can be argued that the only way this can work successfully is in conjunction with a re-defined, opportunistic HR strategy.

The need to create new HR strategies – in real-time

At this juncture, a complete reboot of HR procedures may be best. The reason is that there is no precedent on which to base a phased re-integration of operations. New HR strategies have to anticipate and implement strategies that can realise new priorities in real-time.

Businesses should also engage employees so that there will be a mutual understanding when it comes to sustainable strategies requiring sacrifices over the short term. Creative solutions to cut costs could be the difference between successful restructuring of operations and diminished capacity. Considered guidance from HR is imperative.

One of the main worries that COVID-19 has brought to the world’s attention is that we weren’t prepared for a global pandemic. Therefore, HR departments need to develop recovery strategies that prepare and support the workforce and position business sustainability and resilience.

The challenge is that this requires HR to expedite fluid organisational strategies that can be adapted in real-time to align with changing business requirements. HR will need to focus specifically on policies and procedures that include

  • Understanding government regulations and applying available relief measures.
  • Agile learning/training. Employees need to know how to use what is now deemed essential technology to streamline their performance, e.g. how to use video conferencing platforms.
  • Re-establishing employees’ individuality and security.
  • Targeting quick implementation and execution to oust competitors.

These can be seen as short-term reactions to stimulate business recovery. By re-engineering previous HR strategies and priorities, businesses can reposition themselves to flourish in the new realities. A return to the prior way of life is simply not feasible.

HR also has the unenviable task of integrating a long-term vision into their marketing recovery strategies so that businesses are ready to deal with future uncertainties that may arise. This requires calculated anticipation; therefore, it’s recommended that enterprises, particularly start-ups and SMEs, seek professional assistance.

The bottom line is that there has been a business operational paradigm shift. If businesses refuse to adapt and adopt new HR policies and procedures, now, long-term sustainability is unlikely. 

At, we provide you with access to your own HR department offering services including but not limited to HR strategy; HR audits as well as planning and implementation of bespoke policies and procedures.