No More Stuck in the Middle, HR Rises to the Top

HR has been transformed from being caught in the middle of the pandemic crisis to being viewed as leaders in their organizations. How can HR pros continue to gain respect from this experience? 

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many heroes emerged from within organizations during the earliest days when leaders had to quickly make decisions to preserve the health and well-being of their employees. These operational changes are still being used as employees return to their former work arrangements. 

The positives of the pandemic

One of the few positive aspects of the pandemic crisis was that it offered human resource professionals a chance to shine as leaders.

HR was increasingly turned to for making daily decisions in response to pandemic conditions. From soothing the emotional concerns of employees worried about job security to daily check-ins with executive teams on what next steps should be, HR had the opportunity to finally rise to the top. 

We talked with Joseph Dicianno, Ph.D., MBA, Manager of Talent Management and Organizational Development at world-renowned health care provider and insurer, UPMC, and author of the upcoming book 'The Busy Leader’s Guide to Caring Leadership'. He shared his insight into the changing view of human resources professionals and their journey to higher levels of respect. 

“Leaders even before the pandemic had an opportunity to shift their view of HR. This has been ongoing for longer than my involvement in the HR space but to stop viewing them as policy-driven disciplinarians or personnel departments and to truly view them as strategic people partners that can provide guidance on all people related matters.“ says Dicianno.

There is a lot of value in what HR can bring to the table, and it was proven during the pandemic and in the time that has followed. HR should be viewed as a strategic business partner, and not just dealing with routine employee matters and recruitment. 

Susan Caminiti, a contributor for CNBC, says, “During this time of major upheaval and uncertainty, the CHRO is a loud voice in the coronavirus war room. These chief people officers are the ones having daily, if not hourly, conversations with the CEO and other senior leaders on how best to navigate a situation that no one possibly could have fathomed.” 

These are challenging times for business and every industry has been hit hard by layoffs, loss of business, and rapid departure of the traditional ways of doing business. But, HR has remained adaptable and it’s this factor that enables them to increase visibility and respect. 

Demonstrating your strengths as an HR professional 

It is critical to maintain this upward movement by determining and showing your strengths to management on a consistent basis. It’s too late to hide in a back office. It’s time to shine. 

Make an inventory of what skills you have that matter now. For any HR pro, this could be breadth of industry knowledge, legal compliance, resources for improving employee engagement and performance, strong communication skills, and leadership abilities. You could be active in designing programs to educate and keep employees safe while they work from home. You may still be putting out fires, but it is possible to work together with other HR and management personnel to improve the future of your organization. 

Dicianno reminds leaders to look for these abilities in their HR teams. He said, “There is a whole world of career development, coaching conversations, leadership development, people analytics, and much more out there as opportunities for leaders to engage HR. Leaders that have embraced this are experiencing the benefits but there’s still room to chip away at the mindset around HR and how they are utilized.” 

When it’s all over and we look back in a couple of years, what will you be able to say you were most proud of accomplishing in HR? How will you secure your seat as a leader and remain there for the future?

Now is the time to stop being stuck in the middle and taking your place as a leader. 


Thymometrics provides tools that improve employee engagement, especially in these unusual times and with more people working remotely. Through real time surveys & feedback solutions, we provide revolutionary yet simple tools to empower employees and monitor wellbeing whilst providing managers with deep and useable insights to improve business culture, productivity and profitability.

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