The pressure on HR and People roles is almost unbearable right now. Between redundancies, quiet quitting and organisational disengagement, it’s never been harder to make a positive impact on the wellbeing and productivity of one’s team.
This week, we hosted an open and candid conversation with Ginni Lisk, People & Culture Expert and Founder of CultureClimate, and Karl Considine, Director of Global Employee Experience Operations, discussing the role of Human Resources in 2023.
What are some of the issues HR are currently facing and how can HR people react?
In this webinar, they discussed the unique challenges in today’s market, how to motivate unengaged teams in 2023, the importance of employee retention, and how to maintain strong brand values and improve unity in the workplace.
I do think it's important to empathise with HR people right and to be sort of real and honest about the situation facing HR functions right now.
I think we are too often pushed into that sort of firefighting territory often by companies that might profess to be people first and talk about values and principles in the good times, but in times like the one we're in now, actions tend to speak louder than words true colours are shown.
I think the reality is that companies are making decisions on the basis of what, certainly my network of HR professionals, that feel quite unilateralon financial arguments.
I think for smaller companies, this might be legitimate, but it certainly doesn't mean it’s acceptable to do a really bad job of restructuring or reorganising.
I think also many HR people are finding themselves fairly high up on the top of the list of layoffs. Diversity and inclusion professionals, I think, have been hit disproportionately in that mix as well, which just feels a bit convenient and wrong.
I think while HR functions are being asked to facilitate a lot of headcount reduction at the moment and certainly cost cutting - if that doesn't mean layoffs - and that cost-cutting is cost.
I do understand feelings of a lack of control and a lack of influence and also just sort of “enough is enough”.
The area that I'm advising HR professionals to really sort of double down on right now is just getting analytics up and running pretty proficiently. I think HR departments need to have a data strategy and they need to have better data because better data means actionable insight.
Recently, there's so much that's outside of our control, right?
There's the macro-economic climate and there are decisions being made at an organisational level that are quite difficult for us to influence.
I guess it comes back to that kind of “respond, don't react” mindset.
So actually, what can we do to respond to the environment?
We've got chronic data that we get from systems and from reporting etc and we can be speaking with middle-level managers to get a sense of how people are feeling, what the themes are, what the insights are, etc.
You'll find that all of that stuff rolls up to be a number of insights that you can then work with and can then present back to leadership teams to say, “Hey, this is the pulse of the business at the moment. I know it's tough. I know it's difficult to work out what we should focus on. But here are some of the things that I think would deliver with some value in return right now…”.
How can you motivate unengaged teams in 2023?
I think that the future of HR functions really is one where People professionals shift their focus right from “command and control” and working on mass with a whole group of people, to getting much more granular around specific cohorts and really understanding the nuance of what's going on at a more individual individualised level.
The primary goal has to be to sort of actually just get out of people's way right. I think that I would love to see a future of people work where we're productizing more experiences internally, we're enabling people.
We are better signposting, helping people to navigate and creating the systems and structures within which people can sort of yeah have more autonomy and more control over and better access to the right information that they need.
So it's that shifting mindset from making people productive or making people well to creating systems and structures within which people can make themselves productive and well, and also not trying to do the job of managers.
In my role as director of employee experience and operations, I need to be thinking about this sort of stuff and how I would tackle our approach.
This would be using human-centred design methodology, which is quite trendy language in HR right now, but we need to be applying that kind of marketing lens thinking to our employees internally.
We need to be thinking about the different personas and the different profiles that we have within the organisation. What are the different needs that we want to serve those different people? How can we productize HR offerings and have HR processes based on those personas? And it's not easy, right?
Because you have to have that insight to create the personas and then figure out how to execute against that?
However, what you get in in return is an environment where what you're offering is individualised. You're reaching a broader demographic, meaning there's more internal motivation, engagement, etc. So it's a no-brainer to be more personalised and focus on the individual.
Why is retention so important right now?
In times of uncertainty such as layoffs, fear is created.
Nobody wants to be part of a fear-based culture, but it's obviously about how you handle the people that are impacted by layoffs.
The people that remain and are left in the culture that remains are important - establishing a fear-based culture is not a good idea.
Treating people poorly is certainly not something that businesses should be proud of, even if they feel like the current sort of macro-climate gives them the ability to justify it right now.
The company culture that remains is going to suffer the loss of the knowledge of the colleagues that have gone and taken their wisdom, expertise and experience with them - engagement is likely to suffer.
While businesses might think that they have that sort of upper hand, ultimately it is also proven that layoffs could result in higher voluntary turnover. Plus, it impacts the culture of innovation that remains.
Can you really expect people to dig deep and find that sort of extra discretionary effort at a time like this when their business is handling layoffs badly? No, I think that is naive.
How should HR handle cost-cutting?
Cost-cutting activity is hitting HR particularly hard right now.
However, I have actually seen really encouraging stuff around people repositioning it and instead, taking this as an opportunity to say “ok, well when you're slightly less busy in terms of the day-to-day, we can get closer to the departments, closer to the parts of the businesses that you're there to grow, and really go deeper into understanding that the sort of current challenges”.
I think it’s a great idea to use this as an opportunity to look at doing an audit.
Let's use some of this time and capacity to understand the market.
What are our competitors doing?
What else is happening out there?
Have we got our EVP positioning right? Do we need to review and change it?
How are we coming across from an employer branding perspective?
What's going on on Glassdoor?
Let's kind of knuckle down and look at some things that perhaps can be improved or just get some conversations going internally so that if everyone bounces back at the same time and we're all going to be fishing in the same pool, we need to prepare and stand out.