Articles | Back to human: Why HR leaders want to focus on people






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Back to human: Why HR leaders want to focus on people again

Back to human: Why HR leaders want to focus on people again






Human-resource officers say a shift to employee-centric policies is long overdue. The pandemic is a big factor in their thinking, but process fatigue has been building for some time.

For years now, human-resource leaders have found themselves on a cost-efficiency treadmill that applies analytics and big data to existing HR operating models. Their departments have lived by a worthy but uninspiring mandate: to optimise labour costs, reinforce compliance and support the adoption of technology.

Even in the areas HR traditionally focused on with meaning and cultural significance—recruitment, and learning and development—the emphasis has been on productivity and how to measure it. For human-resource officers (HROs), the question has now become whether processes have replaced the creativity and innovation they need to attract and develop talent, manage and reward performance, and optimise workforce strategy.

The vast majority of HROs are eager to shift to a more human approach. The COVID-19 pandemic, which accelerated employee demands on HR to meet physical and mental health needs, lent urgency to their view that some core human element has been lost in all these technological advancements.

Engage more directly and deeply with employees

The opportunity to build personal relationships has been disrupted by certain strategies that HR teams have been promoting for some time. These strategies include remote performance management and efforts to channel employees toward self-service. The same platforms and tools that have rewired HR operating models have also changed the world in which employees live and work.

Many HRO’s want to transform their functions to engage more directly with the workforce and to move away from self-service solutions. Key processes should always be undertaken face-to-face or at least with enough individual attention to make remote interactions feel like personal ones. These processes should not only continue to include negotiations on salaries and promotions but also extend to the onboarding of new employees, brainstorming and innovation, coaching and mentoring, and other ways to build relationships.

HRO’s consider it important to take steps to foster a sense of recognition of individual capabilities and contributions across the whole workforce.

Let employees bring their whole person to work

HRO’s are thinking about how HR can shift from mechanistic skill and talent management to addressing the employee experience in a more targeted, dynamic way. This means engaging not just with contractual moments and employees’ safety but by taking a broader view of diversity, equity, and inclusion and their sense of purpose.

Companies are rethinking the employee experience in ways that respect individual differences, while they also adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. When they drill down to find employees who need more and varied types of support, they can also act in ways that create widely shared feelings of well-being and cohesion across the workforce.

Relationships between employees and their colleagues and managers are fundamental to job satisfaction and performance. HR leaders can educate managers on their pivotal roles and embed quality-of-workplace relationships into managers’ development and performance appraisals.

It’s all about helping individual employees. This can’t be managed by an app. A real talent manager has to sit down with the boss and the employee—in person.

Talent managers have to get back to human by bringing leaders and employees together for real dialogue.

One thing HR leaders can do along these lines is to harness the energy and insight of their colleagues to increase engagement among new hires and current employees.

HR leaders need to approach employees much more deliberately. If they want the best in the field, they need to know what they actually want. If every employee feels discernibly better about their work, that really will deliver higher performance for clients and employers overall.

To encourage colleagues to bring the whole person to work, HR leaders can develop programs that focus explicitly on purpose and inclusion. When employees experience inclusive behaviours from their leaders and their peers and teammates, they are more likely to report feeling included at work.

It will be more important to empower line managers so they are focusing on the mindsets and skills required to help people throughout the organisation.

By redefining the criteria for recruitment and performance assessments HR can play an important role in understanding the skills and behaviour that help organisations operate in new ways.

HR as role model

To lead so much organisational change, HR teams themselves must be inspirational groups in which to work, as well as magnets for great talent and great leaders, who must sit at the top table.

HR leaders should focus on the organisation’s internal culture and readiness and capacity for change yet remain constantly aware of the broader human ecosystem and the markets from which they draw talent. HR leaders will therefore be asserting the right not just to support their organisations but also to shape them.

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