As our preferences for how, where, and with whom we work have changed in the past three years, so have our expectations for our human resource departments. We now look at our HR leaders to build their policies in ways that support our wellbeing, purpose, skill development, and growth.
Companies with a focus on growth are already conducting studies to find out how they can help their employees be productive while also leading fulfilled home and personal lives. All of these studies, though varied in their goals, deliver some resounding, unanimous findings. One of them is about employees expecting their companies to stand as the force of good in the world. We want our executives and leaders to champion diversity, inclusion, and acceptance.
Here are 5 major expectations that the modern workforce has for its HR leaders in 2022 and beyond.
1. Employees Want to Join Strong, Compelling Brands
Yes, we all need to be paid more and feel appreciated at work, but there’s another expectation that more and more employees have started to express. According to the Mercer leadership study published recently, employees want to feel connected with the organization on a more visceral level. They want to feel part of a compelling and future-driven brand. Part of some change, and meaning.
But when I say brand and you think of creating a business logo, doling out a marketing campaign, and think great talent will flock to your doors, you’ve got your work cut out for you. While these outward brand expressions are important, it’s a mistake to consider them the entirety of the brand. To create a compelling and consistent brand, your organizational values, goals, and actions must all align. Your business purpose should be clear and clearly communicated both internally and externally.
Make employee engagement an integral part of your operations. Make sure you are giving them the flexibility, freedom, and resources to thrive in their roles. Only then you can attract top talent that agrees with the values and objectives that you hold dear. These are the people who will dive into the passion wholeheartedly and commit to bringing about the changes you want in the world.
2. Workplace Strategies that Promote Inclusion and Equity
As a people-focused department, it is time to champion employee concerns that relate to inclusion, diversity, and equality. The pandemic has given us a microscopic view of the many challenges and restrictions that workers of different minority groups face. It could be a barrier to fully accessing technology, lack of specialized training programs, unintentional biases rampant in the organizational structures, and many other things.
To turn your company around and become an HR leader, not just a manager, you’ll have to make swift and definitive changes. MasterCard did this by addressing generational barriers within the organization. Its ‘YoPros’ (Young Professionals Business Resource Group) program mentors older employees in learning about social media and how to use it for business. Kaiser Permanente – a healthcare organization – is another employer with a commendable diversity record. The company’s labor force has no racial majority – 60% of it comprises people of color.
Use these examples as the starting point to create and implement policies and systems that support people of different backgrounds and abilities to join your vision and help take your brand to the next level.
3. Competitive Pay is the Bare Minimum – You Need to Offer Perks and Benefits
The perks and benefits being offered to the employees are looking a lot different post-pandemic. A significant chunk of employees has moved to remote work arrangements, resulting in their lack of access to company-offered perks such as healthy on-site meals, daycares, or gyms.
The pandemic has also exposed the voids in our understanding and treatment of mental health problems. An alarmingly high number of employees have reported feeling stressed, anxious, depressed, and burnt out. Mental health issues have become the leading cause of disability in the country.
A survey by Lyra Health and the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions also reports that 40% of the American workforce suffers from the effects of burnout. Two-thirds of those surveyed also reported that poor mental health has diminished their productivity and performance at work.
All of these topics point towards a need for a more well-rounded approach to employee benefits programs. It has to become bigger than paychecks and medical insurance. HR leaders need to think of delivering healthy meals and snacks to remote workers, subsiding their gym memberships, childcare assistance, providing financial wellbeing programs, virtual and otherwise mental healthcare offerings, flexible scheduling, and customized benefits packages.
Conducting a company-wide survey to find out the kind of benefits that would serve your workforce the best is the most holistic way to approach the issue. It will help you guide your effort and investment to areas that are going to deliver the most value.
4. Create Up-Skilling and Re-Skilling Programs
Up-skilling and re-skilling programs are another way for your HR department to look at the future with a more comprehensive lens. Training your workforce in education, technical knowledge, and skills that are required for future jobs helps you create a workforce that is more agile and can respond to sudden pivots (like a global pandemic) with more resilience and efficiency.
Even before the pandemic, corporations like Walmart, Target, and Amazon had started tuition reimbursement programs where the companies cover either full or partial college costs for their workers. Google has a thriving volunteer community where peer-to-peer training and mentoring ensure that the company’s workforce learns from the best in a thriving and supportive environment.
In 2021, Accenture invested $1 billion in its reskilling and training program for all of its employees of all levels and designations. Since March 2020, the company has trained more than 70,000 professionals and has increased its training hours by 6% while also reducing training costs.
As employee appreciation efforts go, investing in their skills training is a great way to show your trust in their abilities and to root for their success. If you’re not a billion-dollar company yet and cannot afford pricey college tuitions or fancy digital training, platforms such as LinkedIn Learning and Coursera are available. You can also consider Google’s digital training courses from its platform, Digital Garage, for high-end, free technical education.
5. Make Work-From-Anywhere a Norm
Remote work was already a thing for a large number of people around the globe way before the pandemic. According to stats, 17% of U.S. employees worked from home prior to 2020. Globally, this figure was at 21%.
After Covid-19, these numbers have jumped to 44% and 56% respectively. With more and more people and companies feeling comfortable with the many benefits of WFH, it has started to become a staple of modern work offerings. So much so that many people resigned from their jobs when refused by their employers to be given flexible work situations. According to a Slack survey, 72% of the workforce is looking at companies that offer a hybrid work model. A combination of office + remote situation where employees can choose when to come to the office and when to stay at home and work from their living room.
As an HR head, it’s your duty to sit down with employees and the management and figure out what your hybrid work model is going to look like. You can ask your entire staff to come to work some days of the week and work remotely on other days. You can also make some teams fully remote while others can be office-bound. Then there are companies that offer WFH when their employees have to take care of important things at home – childcare duties, a doctor’s appointment, household fixes, and such.
Just figure out what works for you and your teams and get on with devising the strategy. With the most intuitive digital collaboration tools at your disposal, there really is no excuse to deprive your staff of the flexibility that remote work brings.
5. Effective Remote Team Introductions
Remote employees need to meet their teammates just like any new employee would. Team introductions are easy to overlook when any new employee is remote. There are a few ways to integrate remote employees with the rest of your team:
Have a group welcome video call.
Schedule one-on-one introduction calls.
Hold shadow sessions where your new employee sits in as others perform work processes on a screen share.
Use recorded sessions like sales calls or customer service calls to familiarize new employees with your customers and messages.
Give a virtual tour of your facilities.
Employees perform best when they know they are valued teammates and share the same communication and collaboration tools and best practices with the rest of the team. While you cannot take a remote employee out to lunch in person, everyone has adapted to video coffee breaks, lunches, and happy hours.
The future of work demands HR representatives to show their value and relevance to their organization and people. The days of looking at HR as a bridge/connection to corporate/management are over. Employees now expect their HR leaders to champion change, pursue innovation, be proactive in their support of the workforce, and listen to employee concerns with the intent to solve their issues.
I am a marketing and business development expert and have been a part of the industry for the past 5 years, providing strategies, content learning and access to peer networks. I am passionate about helping businesses build a professional online persona.