HomeFuture of WorkHR EffectivenessCruising through crisis: From Tesco to the NHS — how HR can make a difference

Cruising through crisis: From Tesco to the NHS — how HR can make a difference

  • 5 Min Read

At critical times of crisis, the HR team can be of great assistance, especially with online support and physical resources that provide employees with speedy support and assistance.

Featured Image

HR leaders have a vital role in engaging with employees and management teams during a crisis. They can help key areas of an organization by counseling them on how to properly engage with team members and building protocols for dealing with unique crisis situations. At critical times, the HR team can be of great assistance, especially with online support and physical resources that provide employees with speedy support and assistance.

A tremendous example of HR leadership is how HR leaders dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic. At the peak of the pandemic, a number of HR leaders were of help in supporting their personnel and top-level management by giving them clear guidance, supportive frameworks, and flexible working conditions. While many businesses were forced to make difficult decisions about layoffs and furloughs, many others were able to actively support their employees during this time.

Here are a few examples of companies that dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic in the best way possible.


The HR department of Tesco’s has been praised for its quick and effective response to the pandemic. The company implemented a range of measures to protect its employees, and has also introduced flexible working arrangements to help employees balance work with childcare commitments.


Enhanced sick pay which was given to NHS staff during the Covid-19 pandemic. The special pay arrangements were offered to staff who were off work sick with either Covid or long Covid during the pandemic. Staff received pay if they were isolating from the virus and a full 12 months’ pay if they had long Covid.

Activision Blizzard

A video game company situated in Santa Monica, California, has implemented remote work for 99 percent of its 10,000 employees (excluding janitorial, security, and other key staff). “We had a remote-work policy, but as you can imagine, it was not meant to manage a situation where everyone would work remotely while facing the crises we are currently experiencing,” said Claudine Naughton, Chief People Officer at Activision Blizzard. “Our remote policy could not have anticipated that hospitals and health care would be difficult to obtain if schools and other supporting services closed. Our policy was not structured to support working from home while employees would be dealing with health-related challenges or caring for their kids or other dependents.”

The organization rapidly updated its remote-work policy to enable varied work hours and provide a level of freedom that the company had never previously offered to its employees.

How can HR leaders support managers during a crisis?

As a human resources leader, you are in a key position to support managers during times of crisis. By providing practical tools and resources, you can help them navigate the new landscape of informal conversations and wage pressures.

Four ways HR can help managers to support their staff

  1. Give financial literacy training to managers may be one way to help them in times of financial difficulty. Managers can then conduct workshops with their employees and provide them with tools and resources. Another way to assist managers is to provide wage subsidies to their employees. These subsidies can assist managers in defraying the costs of compensating employees during periods of reduced work hours or pay cuts.
  2. Offering support packages and bonuses for high-performing staff. During times of uncertainty, workers may be enticed to leave for greener pastures.
  3. Mental support is another type of assistance. This type of assistance can assist managers in identifying and addressing any stressors they may be experiencing. It can also provide resources for dealing with difficult conversations or making difficult decisions.
  4. Finally, HR leaders can provide logistical assistance. This can range from providing additional communication resources to coordinating remote work arrangements.

How can HR support employees during a crisis?

Organizations must be proactive when it comes to caring for employees during a crisis. Employees can be helped in a variety of ways during these difficult times, which can help keep them healthy and productive. Below are a few examples that HR leaders can take to help support employees during a crisis.

In a financial crisis:

  1. Reconsider your monthly payroll schedule. If possible, consider giving employees their salary a week or two early. This will help them to better budget and plan for upcoming expenses.
  2. Changing their pay cycle to weekly or fortnightly.
  3. Offer budgeting tips, financial counseling services, or access to financial planning tools.
  4. Review pension scheme for higher interest rates and lower deductions.
  5. Offer food vouchers or emergency parcels packages, which incorporate food, toiletries, and other essential items.

In a health crisis:

  1. Examine the structure of the company’s medical insurance cover and compare various options for employees. Fill in the blanks if one is missing. Many businesses have a number of options and plans for their staff to choose from. These should adapt to the demands of employees by providing low-cost initiatives that encourage everyone to participate.
  2. Provide discounted access to specialist health services.
  3. Offer wellness packages.
  4. Encourage hybrid working days and models.
  5. Provide a healthy habits resource (including regular exercise, adequate sleep, healthy diet).
  6. Offer fortnightly/monthly juice days, or healthy food days.
  7. Offer vouchers from health and wellness providers.

In any other crisis:

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate!
  • Have clear procedures and policies.
  • Offer one to one support and guidance.
  • Run surveys and polls among managers to find out what is missing or required.
  • Offer support packages.

In summary

Communication is critical in any type of crisis. It is critical to establish and communicate appropriate crisis procedures and important information. HR personnel may supply managers with specific training as well as crucial tools and packages to help them manage employee needs. HR executives can also act as a sounding board for managers, ensuring that the issue is properly addressed and supported.


Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic is Professor of Leadership and Management at Hult International Business School (Ashridge) and founder and CEO of Management Shift Solutions Limited.

Was this article helpful?

Subscribe to get your daily business insights


HRD Roundtable: Combating 'Quiet Quitting'…

08 June 2023
  • E-Book
  • 1y

HRD Network Roundtable: The Retention…

15 June 2023
  • E-Book
  • 1y

Manage change and drive value…

01 June 2023
  • E-Book
  • 1y
Sign up to our Newsletter