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HR Heroes

Christian Ash | Director of Operations, Acorn Recruitment
May 20, 2021

As co-founders of the Wales HR Network and Wales HR Awards, celebrating the unsung HR heroes working behind the scenes to support businesses of all sizes has always been at the top of our agenda here at Acorn. Over the past year in particular, HR colleagues all over the world have found themselves balancing furlough, working from home and online working demands, which has required quick-thinking and sensitive handling in equal measure on their part.

Walking into the unknown, many businesses have been thrown into having to make huge adjustments just to keep going and there has never been a better time to reflect on the amazing support HR teams have provided throughout.

Digital transformation

With most businesses transitioning to work from home within weeks of the pandemic starting, remote working systems quickly became vital. HR professionals were instrumental in helping colleagues ease into this way of working. HR teams also had to respond quickly and adapt polices to reflect the needs of the remote workforce. Adding in employee engagement and accelerated communication to the mix, they have had to be willing to listen and open to change in order to create a mostly satisfied and productive workforce.

Our own staff survey found that home working, despite the challenges involved, has worked well for many. More than half (57%) felt significantly more productive at home, and a huge majority (88%) also felt they had been kept up-to-date with Covid-19 news.


The past year has affected people in many different ways, and proactive support not just professionally but also emotionally from their organisations has been more important than ever. As a result the employee experience is now changed, and issues including the need for mental health support has come to the forefront as a result. Mental health related absence is now the most common cause of long-term sickness in the UK, and while it was being taken seriously before the pandemic, it is now even more important.

At Acorn we encouraged staff to ensure they took breaks outside, enabled people to work flexibly so that they could manage childcare and other issues, and generally provided a solid support network to ensure colleagues felt connected throughout the pandemic.

As businesses start to put in place strategies going forward as we start to ease out of restrictions, HR functions are continuing to ensure colleagues are supported every step of the way with support with returning to the office to help with connecting with teams and checking in on colleagues who may be finding things difficult.

Learning curve

With furlough being introduced virtually overnight, most UK businesses had never used this process before, so there was a lot to learn. Following guidance from the UK Government, businesses automatically turned to their HR teams to take the lead, who in turn had to quickly learn and implement processes they themselves had little experience of before. Redundancy was also an unfortunate side effect of the pandemic which also involved sensitive communication and handling generally.

The past 15 months has been a huge learning curve for our HR colleagues and we will be forever proud and grateful for their resilience, support and understanding during what has been such an uncertain and demanding year for everyone.


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