Jennifer Mancuso, Vice President of HR at North Highland, recently attended HALO Consulting’s “HR and the New Normal” panel discussion. Here, she shares her key observations from the event.
The pandemic has certainly uprooted processes and ways of working across organizations. But it’s the HR function that has arguably been impacted the most. Companies can no longer ignore the needs of their workforce. After all, it’s the people that make the business.
Taking our people more seriously calls for reflection and action. It’s time we thought about their experience, ways of working and culture, and how they can benefit from a better working environment. With this in mind, I wanted to share my five key takeaways from a recent virtual roundtable event that I had the honor of speaking at.
- A call for change
One of my fellow panelists, Inspirant Group’s CEO, Meg Newhouse, shared a phrase that instantly struck me: “We are living an Employee Revolution”. A call to see the employee as the customer. This change forces us to view their experience in a new light—not by a one-size-fits-all model, but one tailored to the unique needs of the workforce.
- Creating the community gravitas
When we come together, whether for fun or for meaningful interaction and collaboration, we build a more vibrant community. People are yearning for that human connection, regardless of the work setup. So, creating that gravitas around people and community is a must.
Those fluid lines of community extend to making employees aware of what’s going on throughout the organization. Consistent communication is crucial and, I would add, so is considering more than one communication method. Regular check-ins—in a range of formats—act as a way to gauge how employees are doing, and helps you make any necessary adjustments along the way.
- The culture morph
Panelist Dr. Tenia Davis, Chief Talent and Administrative Services Officer at HBR Consulting, presented another powerful notion: challenging HR to be the stewards of change. She spoke about connecting new employees to the culture thread by building programs that drive a sense of community (with wellness programs and unique ways of working fit for each business).
Focus on programs that can help revitalize you culture. Consider refreshing your employee value propositions or building energy around teamwork by welcoming employees back to in-person collaboration when appropriate.
Of course, this calls for companies to find their ideal hybrid model. Dr. Davis shared a few options to consider, from hoteling desks to schedules and monthly “lunch and learns”. The important thing here is to seek feedback from your people on what’s working or not working and adapt as you go.
- Leading with empathy and walking the walk
Meg raised a great point when she said that leaders set the tone for the organization. She shared a great book for reference—Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence—explaining the importance of leaders demonstrating those markers when interacting with the workforce.
Playfully, she referred to the leader claiming self-awareness and taking care of their shop so that they could be there for the team. And she’s right: retaining employees requires insight. HR teams need to get to the heart of why people are staying or leaving. Is it a commitment to future growth? A culture disparity perhaps?
Through a series of informal coffee chats and sit-down stay interviews, we found that career pathing was crucial to employee retention. So, we put more investment into learning and development, and refined our employee value proposition so that people stay connected to the DNA of our firm.
Having top-down support is another key element. Our CEO takes part in fireside chats with employees, demonstrating the level of commitment that our leadership has in listening to and acting on their needs.
- Diversity and equity
Being unflinchingly intentional on including people with a range of differences—be that in terms of race, sex, ability, lifestyle, age, or background—is a no-brainer. And if there’s a disparity, ask yourself who you didn’t consider and why? What can we do to support them?
Operating through an enterprise business agility program is another way to trigger involvement, ensuring everyone gets an opportunity to participate with access to an executive.
The panel’s moderator, Maureen Greene, called for leaders to help minorities level up and be intentional on how we want to evolve our people. Meg further challenged the audience to practice self-awareness when looking at any inherent biases. This prompts the need to have a strong leadership development initiative that sets the tone and prioritizes diversity.