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How HR can create more human workplaces

10th Dec 2020
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As 2021 approaches and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic continue to be felt in the workplace, one thing is for certain: the way we work has fundamentally changed. From virtual conference calls to family members cropping up in the back of videos, many things have changed, but above all, the most important evolution over this past year has been that companies have come to realise the importance of human connection in the workplace.

Indeed, amid this current crisis, organisations are recognising the vital role that humanity plays at work and are realising that it is a fundamental part of driving trust, connections, engagement and productivity. There is still great progress to be made, and it is HR that must lead the charge in bringing more humanity to work and – until we can all be working together shoulder to shoulder again – in bringing people together. Below are some ways in which HR leaders can drive this change.

Foster a sense of humanity

HR leaders play a critical role in keeping employees happy, engaged and productive – they’re also the ones that can ensure human connections are still at work, regardless of where people are doing their job. In the era or remote work, having a human-centred culture is vital as we know that working from home can bring about feelings of loneliness, isolation and stress.

Fostering this sense of humanity can come in many forms. For example, encouraging daily video calls with peers so that employees don’t feel alone, or organising virtual group activities like fitness classes or end of week drinks to bring everyone together and build human connections. It’s also about being cognisant of employees’ needs and desires, such as having a more flexible work schedule in order to juggle home life with work. HR teams are already doing these things to support employees, and much more besides, and must continue to do so as the future of work remains undetermined.

Keep a finger on the pulse of employee feelings

As homeworking takes its toll on engagement and motivation, employees also need to continue to feel appreciated, understood, and connected to a company’s values and mission. With the physical workplace becoming a more fluid concept, it is up to talent and HR leaders to help employees connect with these values and goals and ensure they are happy whilst doing so.

To do this, HR leaders can start by making performance management a more ongoing and collaborative process, and create a culture of frequent check-ins and feedback. This not only gives employees more opportunity to discuss their accomplishments and a chance to ask for guidance, but it also allows leaders and the company as a whole to keep a finger on the pulse of employee feelings. There are even free tools available, like Workhuman’s Moodtracker, to help employers do just that. With more information to hand, HR leaders can take responsive actions that strengthen core values and purpose, improve culture, and achieve a higher level of employee engagement.

Lead with humanity

HR and business leaders that are in tune with employees, can listen to their concerns, and are attentive and adaptable are not only showing that they care, but that they actually want to make changes to the work environment.

2020 has been fraught with reasons why employees might turn to their HR team for support and guidance – indeed, between the pandemic, gender and racial inequality, and economic turmoil, leaders have had to contend with a lot this past year. To tackle these issues, all of them sensitive and impacting employees to varying degrees, leaders must bring more humanity into how they operate.

Many are already doing so, recognising that employees all matter equally, are at the centre of what they do, and are all unique, and that this year has been difficult for everyone. Leaders that can lead with humanity now are the ones that will thrive in the future. There are now even certifications available for those organisations and individuals who are harnessing the power of human connection and striving for a more human workplace.

Make use of HR technology

During a crisis and to lead a human-centred company, leaders must take advantage of everything at their disposal and take the leap of faith to try something new. This includes technology. While this might sound counter-intuitive, with human-centred strategies in place, human connections can become stronger than ever through the use of human-centred technology and will allow companies, cultures and employees to thrive.

One such solution HR leaders are turning to is social recognition platforms – such tools encourage peer-to-peer recognition and allow employees to recognise their colleagues’ hard work and strengths. This recognition can be anything, from a ‘well done!’ message to a monetary reward. All this helps mitigate isolation and encourage connections when it matters most.

It also improves engagement. Cisco, for example, found that its most engaged employees received an award every 30 to 40 days throughout the year via its Connected Recognition platform. In addition, when an employee received one of these awards, they were much more likely to agree with the statements “I have a chance to use my strengths every day at work” and “I know I will be recognized for excellent work”. Considering Workhuman research found that employees who have a sense of meaning and purpose are more than four times as likely to love their jobs, recognising and showing appreciation for hard work is no small thing.

The future of HR

Fostering human-connections has been critical since the start of the pandemic and even in the future workplace, keeping humanity in play is essential. HR leaders will need to turn to new and innovative ways to empower employees and make work human, whatever the future looks like for their organisation.

Technology is an essential component here in connecting people on a daily basis, whether it’s to enable them to stay in touch with their colleagues from afar or check in with their managers to ensure they’re on track with their goals. For those employees that will continue working from home indefinitely, HR must play an active role in ensuring they remain engaged, productive and happy, by enabling them to have direct access to performance goals, recognition, and feedback. 

New technologies, like social recognition and continuous performance management platforms, have made connecting and recognising employees through shared purpose so much easier. Now more than ever, HR leaders that can bring everyone together through recognition and humanity will create a human-centred workplace that’s fit for the future – whatever that might be.

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