Putting the ‘human’ back in human resources

Over the past two years, our understanding of life at work has been uprooted and redefined in ways no one could have predicted. The pandemic accelerated modernizing the workplace by challenging traditional HR practices.

With a looming recession, many companies are rolling back perks and benefits, driving “The Great Reshuffling” as employees seek new employment with those committed to doing what is best for their people. In the ongoing cultural conversation about people, purpose, values and balance, human resources sits at the heart of it all.

HR leaders have a responsibility to make the holistic human experience an important consideration. The Great Reshuffling marks a significant shift in the way professionals evaluate what’s most important and how their day-to-day work experiences meet — or fail to meet — the mark. The outcome is a job market that’s competitive, unpredictable and driven by the priorities of top talent.

A holistic approach means putting the human back in human resources. Utilizing employee survey data and implementing real-time suggestions can uncover what matters most to employees and show them you’re listening.

Employees have complex lives, needs, goals and priorities. Pre-pandemic schedules and in-office expectations once created the illusion of a separation between work and life, but that has changed. It’s no longer possible to live by the old narrative, and pretending otherwise takes a toll on our collective mental health.

When you consider culture as a product, employees become valued consumers. Ask what they want and what could be better. Explore what defines the user experience. Their feedback is a roadmap for meaningful innovation and improvement. It’s up to HR and the C-suite to listen and execute.

Companies win when they create hybrid working environments that support workplace connectivity and autonomy. Listening and implementing are the sweet spots in ways that make employees feel invested, seen and valued.

The future of HR requires supporting a flexible structure while empowering an owner mindset. Perks, benefits and recruiting, and a sense of belonging attract talent and inspires employees to invest where they are. Consider employee options to drive the evolution of HR policies to unlock new levels of transparency.

Embracing Change

Companies rooted in tradition can no longer base strategies on control and predictability when the workforce values flexibility and autonomy. Leaders must re-evaluate their values, culture and company philosophies to create economic stability and an experience that aligns with employee expectations.
HR professionals need to help navigate potential pushback from the C-suite. Hearing that employees want a better PTO policy, parental leave options, or medical benefits can sound egregious. Building in ample time when considering change goes a long way in setting the stage for productive conversations. Allowing three to six months to discuss a rollout can minimize fears and prevent leadership from entering fight-or-flight mode. The true value of human resources is caring for people in ways that inspire them to care about your company. Employees aren’t a commodity or a number — they’re real, complex humans.

Find out what matters most to your people, then create ways to give it to them. When you put people first and modernize company culture in alignment with your values, you’ll attract and retain happy, engaged, talented employees who want to stay, who are passionate about what you’re doing and proud to be part of it. ●

Jena Wierwille is Vice President of Human Resources at Central Insurance

Jena Wierwille

Vice President of Human Resources
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