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COVID-19 & Human centered management: How should HR handle tough decisions?

COVID-19 & Human centered management: How should HR handle tough decisions?

Because of the COVID-19 crisis, many companies have had to retrench and dismiss workers. In fact, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said that almost 100,000 workers were laid off during the first half of the year alone.

The difficult times have been pressing human resource (HR) practitioners to make critical decisions for employees. In this article, JobStreet talks with Sonnie Santos of to help HR professionals navigate this period of crisis.

What should HR practitioners know about human-centered management?

During times of crisis when almost everyone’s livelihood is affected, people managers are most essential because “respecting human dignity or restoring humanity in HR processes reduces mental wellness issues in the workplace,” Sonnie says.

What is human centered management?

Human Centered Management is incorporating human rights in human resources (#HRinHR).

As per Article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), according to Sonnie, is “a call to respect human rights as a matter of social responsibility. HR pros, being a champion of culture enhancement, employee engagement; and the one responsible for HR processes and strategic policies are natural duty bearers of #HRinHR.”

What should employers know about human rights?

Amid the pressures of keeping the business alive during this pandemic, several employers tend to become transactional and overlook the benefits of human centered management or #HRinHR. However, note that human centered management translates into a successful business as well.

HR in HR is more of a business decision than a political one,” he states. He then enumerates four reasons why employers should prioritize practicing human rights in their businesses:

1. Less trouble with regulatory bodies

When an organization complies to the minimum requirements of the law—in this case, human rights of employees—then they will have less trouble with our regulatory bodies.

More than any CSR initiatives, employees should be the priority and primary responsibility of any company. Needless to say, employee welfare is the first and foremost obligation of companies to society.

2. To attract and retain good talents

According to JobStreet Laws of Attraction, poor employee management is one of the top reasons for employee dissatisfaction. If a company disrespects human dignity and exudes a toxic workplace culture, they will eventually drive employees away.

3. To gain customer trust

Throughout the years, we have seen how companies with good employee feedback thrive in the market. “If there is a positive perception towards our organisation or brand, then chances are that is additional revenue,” he says. “The negative ones, it will also affect their bottomline.”

4. To attract investors who also believe in human rights in business

Many businesses are financially struggling because of the pandemic; however, this shouldn’t be a reason to compromise in human rights in the workplace. Keep in mind that many investors want to support businesses who support their employees. To prove this point, it was disclose that there are, in fact, a group of business people willing to invest billions of dollars in organizations with good human rights practices.

Applying HR in HR in your company during COVID-19

For companies whose operations were not affected, allow employees to take leaves during this pandemic.

The stresses of COVID-19 have taken a toll on many employees, but most don’t take into account that they have the right to take a break (and to quit).

Under Article 4 of the UDHR, involuntary servitude is prohibited. Likewise, under Art 24, employees have the right to leisure and rest. “Unless they are under administrative investigation or did not follow existing guidelines on leaves, refusal to approve or accept notice of resignation and/or application of leaves   might be construed as involuntary servitude”.

Allow employees to participate in decision making

If your company is transitioning towards a new normal, it is necessary to let employees know about these adjustments and give them the opportunity to speak their mind. This practice complies with Article 19 of the UDHR, the right to freedom of expression.

Having regular town hall meetings is one of the many ways to encourage employees to speak their minds, thus, respecting article 19 of UDHR. This lets employees relay their concerns about the company every now and then.

Enable a safe and secure workplace

Make sure your employees have safe working conditions amid the pandemic. Ensuring mental wellness is another role of employers under Article 25 of the UDHR.

Allow employees to feel heard and understood

Difficult conversations involving lay-offs, temporary termination, and salary deductions become less challenging, if a culture of #HRinHR and transparency is in place, the trust level is high.

Practice empathy and compassion for employees throughout the whole off-boarding process. Deliver your message with full transparency about the considerations the company had to make, and “if able", soften the impact of displacement with realistic support.

Company support may come in financial, medical, emotional, and professional means. Encourage employees to move on with a sense of dignity. Show employees that you are concerned with their well-being, even as you make the difficult decision of letting them go.

Managing the COVID-19 crisis with HR in HR

Most practitioners jump into the question of how to communicate difficult decisions such as retrenchments or temporary layoffs. However, it is important to take note that handling the conversation properly is just one vital step in managing people during this crisis.

“The mood and outcome of the conversation, in any scenario, is already determined by how management and HR handled the whole process. If the process was humanely done and rights- based, in good faith, full of transparency, compassionate and have done other measures first before going into this painful option, then conversation need not be difficult,” says Sonnie.

Essentially, HR in HR all boils down to knowing the needs and desires of your employees and weighing those against that of the company before making critical decisions. Through JobStreet Laws of Attraction, you can have unlimited access to employer insights drawn from JobStreet's comprehensive study of more than 18,000 Filipino candidates across 25 industries. You may subscribe to get these resources straight to your inbox!

Sonnie Santos is the man behind ‘The ASK Project initiative'. He's also the founder of Learning and Organization Development Institute, Inc. (LODI, Inc.). Twice awarded for his advocacies, Sonnie is in the forefront of developing future HR and corporate leaders through the #HRMentoring program. He is an advocate of Human Centered Management or #HRinHR (Human Rights in Human Resources) and a strategist for talent and culture development. To learn more about his advocacies, visit

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