Building Business Resilience: Insights from HRCI CEO Dr. Amy Dufrane

The pandemic is stress-testing the wellbeing of individuals, businesses, and institutions. Constructive responses are being undertaken by global industry, as with the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset Initiative, within organizations, and at the human level.  In our interview today, we will speak with a prominent leader whose organization is empowering many other groups to improve their response to the pandemic with a focus on organizational and strategic resilience, and care for the people who make up organizations.

Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) is the premier credentialing organization for the human resource profession, setting the standard for HR rigor, excellence and expertise for more than 40 years. With over three decades of experience in the HR field, Dr. Amy Dufrane is the CEO of HRCI. Dr. Dufrane has successfully innovated and adapted in the rapidly evolving world of testing and accreditation. 

For our inaugural article of the OpenEyes interview series, Dr. Dufrane offered her insight into the importance of resilient business practices not only for responding to the current pandemic, but also for preparing for any business risk.

As the CEO of a large nonprofit, what measures have HRCI implemented to deal with the pandemic and support clients in a time of a crisis?

Our clients are HR leaders, who are at the center of managing staff business continuity. They focus on perhaps the single most important resource that a business has—its people. HR leaders are working harder than ever before and HRCI has provided them with the workplace tools to deal with the pandemic, along with other very current issues, such as diversity and inclusion. Most of our clients have been working heroically seven days a week, while also supporting their colleagues and caring for their families.

HRCI has taken a variety of steps to guide our clients in uncertain times. We have provided them with timely, cost-free learning courses on remote working and crisis management. Moreover, we are delivering webinars focused on personal and professional support, while also producing our weekly podcast Inevitable: The Future of Work. On various social media platforms, we have made available weekly voice content with news that HR personnel can use in real time.

For our clients looking to become professionally certified, HRCI is extending deadlines and offering the opportunity to take exams online rather than at a testing center. In response to the cancellation of numerous conferences, we are providing extra time to earn recertifications for clients that plan on utilizing such credits in the future. We are also working to provide free virtual conferences to support our base of certified HR leaders. 

As CEO, I put the health and safety of my team at the forefront. I oversaw HRCI’s immediate pivot to remote work at the onset of the pandemic. Despite the circumstances, my team has been working on many high-profile projects, elevating HRCI to new heights. I am maintaining transparent communication by holding weekly town halls and virtual happy hours to create personal connection during this time of isolation. We also put in place a buddy program to check on colleagues. HRCI is embracing technology to further our efforts and I am proud to lead a team with such unwavering dedication to the advancement of HR and HR professionals. 

What can other organizations learn from HRCI’s experience?

Time and time again, HRCI has demonstrated that it’s an agile and resilient organization. By championing a culture of integrity, HRCI has emerged as the leader in human resources certification. Throughout the pandemic, we have recognized the importance of supporting our employees and clients through a variety of accessible, innovative programs.

What is HRCI doing to assist members and/or HRCI certified professionals to efficiently reskill and to engage in risk planning and management? 

To assist in reskilling and risk planning, we are offering free, high-quality learning on relevant business continuity topics. Our clients are navigating a new normal during a time of such uncertainty, and HRCI is dedicated to providing them with not only tools, but also a community. Current challenges facing HR leaders include ensuring that people feel safe upon returning to work, managing tough conversations, engaging colleagues during remote operations, and recruiting new employees during a pandemic. HRCI is dedicated to helping our clients overcome such hurdles.  

How can both individuals and organizations ensure that responses to the pandemic provide a lasting benefit in a post-pandemic future?

Innovation is the new norm. Many amazing innovations come out of times of great change, and the today’s challenges will be no exception. My advice is to embrace the opportunity, focus on the future, and listen to your clients.

The concept of resilience in business is not new. However, in all business sectors, industry leaders have had to adapt to the many extra challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The most resilient organizations set time aside to consider the possibility of disruptive change and engage in contingency planning. Agility, flexibility, and fortitude are made easier by preparation before disruption strikes.  Leadership and support for one’s workforce in times of disruption can help them better cope with adversity which, in turn, helps your organization to prevail. Establishing a culture with the necessary tools in place to actively listen to and communicate with employees and clients is essential in difficult times, and the time to practice it is now.

To best prepare for pandemic, economic crisis, or any other disruption, business leaders should adopt Dr. Dufrane’s advice to “embrace the opportunity” to implement future-focused, risk-aware measures.

HRCI’s resilient business practices parallel those of OpenEyes. We are honored to work with forward thinking organizations that affect positive change in the world.

OpenEyes thanks Dr. Dufrane for sharing her time and insight with the OpenEyes community.

HRCI® is a registered trademark of the Human Resource Certification Institute.

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