Region Manager UK & Ireland Top Employers Institute
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How to become a Top Employer in 2021

8th Feb 2021
Region Manager UK & Ireland Top Employers Institute
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2020 was the year of HR improvisation, juggling crises and making on the hoof arrangements for each and every aspect of people operations. For many organisations it was the time when HR was suddenly centre stage, not just a transactional and process-driven function, but able to demonstrate its true strength as a pillar of business resilience.

This year is a major opportunity for HR to build on its increased profile among senior management, to go beyond ‘functional excellence’ and find new ways to add value to their organisations.

The HR Trends 2021 report - based on evidence from 1,691 high-performing, progressive employers around the world - sets out how HR at the best employers is responding to the challenges and the new kinds of roles that are being undertaken by HR.

For HR leaders the biggest challenge is to remain resilient and results-oriented while supporting organisations to cope with change, including the impact change is having on employees’ welfare and well-being. HR business partners need to look at a change in their mentality in order to move away from the search for functional excellence, towards solving the human problems that slow down the organisation - while also being a moral guardian that looks after the well-being of employees. HR is evolving from business partner to business maker. And HR operational teams need to take advantage of automation opportunities to free up time and get closer to their clients; for example, by moving from data reporting to data analysis, and by making extensive use of chatbots to interact on administrative aspects. 

The Trends report flags how HR professionals should re-define themselves in the new working world:

The change manager: supporting organisations through transformation 

HR professionals face an urgent need to develop their skills in emotional intelligence and change management to help teams navigate the change curve. 

While the vast majority of Top Employers are confident in their organisations’ change management capabilities, our data seems to indicate some areas for development. HR professionals’ ability to measure progress after executing the primary steps within a change process appears to be lagging. For example, only 52% of Top Employers say they monitor the follow-up impact of change to ensure adoption. 

In restructuring programmes, for example, it is best practice to involve employees from the outset; incorporating their feedback as programmes move from planning into execution (this ensures programmes are not run from ‘ivory towers’). Further along the curve, it is also a good idea to ask for employee feedback to identify improvements and keep teams engaged in making it all happen. 

The talent curator: marketing-led approaches to provide the best candidate experience 

Increasingly, employees wish to work for organisations with a sense of purpose. Top Employers enjoy a brand advantage in this space, but the recruitment tactics of the past need to be augmented by new approaches to connect with a broader, more diverse talent pool. 

With Millennials and Generation Z making up over half of the workforce, it is imperative to create an engaging candidate experience. The experience of going through the selection process tells a lot more about the reality of the organisation than the brand messaging being communicated. 

By speeding up recruitment processes and relying on advanced technology, HR professionals can boost the candidate experience and increase the quality of applications received. Ongoing measurement is also important to identify possible improvements. 

The listener: a user-led approach to employee feedback 

A key priority for Top Employers is to gather timely feedback to address the cultural health of their organisations and to respond promptly to teams’ concerns. 

Given the need for speed, many organisations are moving away from bureaucratic company-wide engagement surveys and instead relying on agile pulse surveys or ‘net promoter score’ questions such as, “On a scale of 0 to 10, how highly would you recommend your company to your family and friends?” 

It is important to have a mix of top-down and bottom-up tactics. The goal is to react quickly and spot emerging workforce and engagement issues before they become urgent. When done well, HR teams appear more proactive and responsive to business needs. 

The business partner: becoming a business ‘value creator’ 

The goal should be to drive excellent business outcomes by solving the talent issues that are putting a brake on performance – while simultaneously playing the role of a moral guardian safeguarding people’s welfare and well-being. This is an especially important mission for organisations in 2021 as business leaders will likely be asking more from their HR counterparts than ever before.

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