Resetting 2022’s HR Challenges

Change, change, change! Can we really be in April 2022 already?

No matter what you identified as the five biggest HR challenges for the year ahead back in January, chances are you’ve already changed that list.

Constant change is the new normal. From macro factors such as the impact of our changing climate, global business challenges and COVID, to disruptions on a personal level with the impact of home working, kids (and their parents) taking time off for COVID, and even work laptops being used for schoolwork, there’s disruption and uncertainty at every turn.

How long will the changes last? Who knows. The situation between Ukraine and Russia makes for grim listening and is already creating shockwaves that affect businesses and individuals alike.

The link between change, uncertainty and mental ill health
There’s a very clear link between change, uncertainty and mental ill health. This means that with the swift changes and resulting uncertainty we’re currently experiencing, a rise in mental health challenges is unavoidable.

Frequent change leads to uncertainty and it’s this uncertainty which in turn may lead to stress, anxiety, depression. No-one is immune and the effects of mental ill health go beyond affecting the person who is suffering. Mental ill health may affect attendance at work or school and the resulting sickness absence requires referral to GPs and hospital consultants who are already overloaded, resulting in lengthy delays. We are all aware of these problems since the cost to businesses of mental ill-health and poor performance is rising year by year.

For those employees who don’t take the time off when experiencing mental ill health, is the outcome any better? Not at all. Presenteeism, continuing to present yourself at work and appear to be working when unwell, continues to be a challenge, resulting in poor performance and undetected health issues.

But it doesn’t need to be this way. The way in which HR leaders engage with employees, managers and leaders can influence the impact of change and uncertainty on employees. What’s more, engaging with employees who show a dip in performance or take time off for ill health can help limit the extent to which a business is impacted by mental ill health.

It’s not a new idea. After all, the CIPD has been highlighting the importance of being people focussed in the workplace for some time now. They stress the importance of compassion and kindness as a way of helping people to feel engaged in their work. Here are a few reminders of what that might look like:

Employee health is business health
We are all in this together! Healthy employees work hard, are engaged in their work and drive businesses forward. Unhealthy employees do the opposite. No longer a problem that only HR and line managers must deal with, CEOs and CFOs are also touched by the need to address mental ill-health and poor performance at work. After all, it’s only by doing so that a business can contain rising human capital costs.

On the flip side, HR professionals now have the opportunity to provide tangible data. The cost of labour turnover, recruitment costs and the impact of sickness absence, presenteeism and poor performance strengthen HR’s voice and improves the business case to address these preventable rising costs year by year.

Leaderships affects employee health & wellbeing
Leadership plays a vital role in supporting a business as it navigates change. And this works on two levels. First, employees need evidence that business leaders are accounting for uncertainty and addressing the challenges that lie ahead. Transparency and visibility can reassure employees – reducing the fear of change and creating a sense of security.

Second, leaders need to engage and work with human resources, health and safety, line management and occupational health to acknowledge and address the issues of sickness absence, poor performance and high levels of attrition.

After all, it’s only with leadership support that HR can take the lead in identifying the root cause of problems which may be triggering employee anxiety, stress and absence.

The value of a positive employee experience
Change at the top must trickle down to everyone else – people in the business should feel able to talk about their own experiences in these changing times. The ‘telling’ style of communication, so prevalent in a traditional hierarchical set-up, is not helpful. Instead of leaders and managers telling employees how they should be feeling as a result of what’s happening, it’s important to ask and listen.

Asking and listening to employees’ views can give leaders deeper insight into what employees are experiencing and will enable HR and line managers to introduce appropriate changes and support. This in turn means employees feel valued and engaged – helping improve mental and physical health as well as improving productivity.

The changing face of training
Historically, training has been seen as either an excuse for a day out of the office, or something to complete under pressure in order to ensure compliance with legislation or leadership mandates.

But a shift in working practices and the flexibility opened up by remote working and meetings mean the disruption of a day out for training is no longer the norm. And with greater flexibility in delivering training, there can be greater emphasis on training outcomes. After all, training can only be effective if it changes people’s behaviour and effectiveness and improves output.

This focus on training outcomes can result in greater support to help line managers recognise signs that their team members are struggling. Or it could mean ongoing support to help HR professionals start to identify the root cause of issues within their business. The key is to remember that training and learning is an ongoing process – not one that stops when the training session ends.

A new era for Human resources
Robert Ordever, MD of O.C Tanner Europe puts it eloquently when stating, “We’re in a new era for HR professionals. The pandemic has highlighted the real value of HR and their place as key influencers – it’s time for them to address the pressing issues of our time. They’re absolutely key to businesses by creating powerful employee experiences and strong thriving organisational cultures”.

Can I support you and your business as you deal with the implications of these changing times on your employees and business? Get in touch to book a call and we can discuss the ways in which I can help.

Doreen Miller

Tel: +44 (0)333 900 9280

Email: [email protected]

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Dr Doreen Miller

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