A company is, and functions thanks to, its employees — at the heart of any HR leader’s job, this is what they know to be true. Their ability to have a foot in both their employees’ and employer’s world is ultimately what makes them great at their job.
That’s not to say that there aren’t missteps at times or that shifts don’t exist that prompt HR leaders to choose who has first priority in a given situation. For example, the current state of startups has brought HR leaders to the forefront of creating cultures within the companies that both benefit and respect their employees. In scenarios like these where the company may be embroiled in a PR nightmare, for HR leaders the company’s employees are where the focus rests.
Here’s how HR leaders effectively balance the needs of the company with the needs of the employees and manage to make a win-win situation out of both.
1. Demonstrating Compassion During Sea Change.
Whether laying off a single employee or downsizing a significant portion of the organization, being the bearer of bad news is never easy. HR always plays a role in the process, up to and including announcing the layoff.
Despite the hurried nature of the change – whether the company is spiraling and needs to shed overhead or whether they simply are changing direction – layoffs should be handled with care and compassion. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also can impact the organization’s future reputation.
A perfect case study is how from startups to media companies, disparaged employees have taken to social media to oust the robotic ways in which they were fired or let go. Keeping the human contact through a sea of change may prevent your company from becoming a trending topic on Twitter.
2. Polling Employees Before Assuming What Benefits They Value.
Whether it is dental insurance, onsite gym membership or complimentary car washes, companies are proud of the benefits they offer employees – as they should be. However, from time to time, polling the employees to see what matters most to them will help to prioritize offerings.
Engaging actively through polls or focus groups of employees on what the ecosystem is actually craving in terms of perks or benefits may in the long run also create a win-win for the company. For example, if the company is made up of a large percentage of women and a large percentage are now becoming moms, polling to see if an adequate breast pumping room is needed may be a low-cost path to ensuring larger rates of retention.
3. Making the Hard Yards More Fun.
Companies sometimes get into ruts, whether it be with training and development or with other routine initiatives that can become physically, intellectually and/or emotionally draining for employees. This is where a creative, people-focused HR leader can step in, not just to make the process more financially feasible or efficient for the bottom line but also to see how they can inspirit employees through a more caring approach.
For example, if a particular initiative calls for annual offsite training, year over year, and the employees routinely dread it, why not spice things up by enhancing the amenities/hotel accommodations or adding a rewards-based, competitive aspect to the training. Gamifying the time leading up to a specific training may also be a way to amp up morale while reducing costs if improved accommodations are not in the budget. Taking a DIY approach to innovation is something HR leaders do well!
4. Ensuring Talent Is Maximized.
HR leaders also act as the perfect middlemen when change is needed but both parties (the employer and employee) are set in their comfortable ways. By facilitating potentially awkward conversations with employees who cannot seem to settle on a right-fit position within the organization, HR leaders help reroute the conversation, even letting go of the employee, if needed.
They also are the magnifying glass by which bosses are reminded that a star player on the team is ready to take on more responsibility. It is their job to work through the not-so-pleasant logistics of reworking teams to create win-win situations for both parties, but definitely with the company’s needs in mind.
5. Driving Transformation.
Amid corporate expansions and restructures, where employees remain employed but are shaken by shifts in organizational DNA, it is important to have an overarching strategy in place. HR’s hand is in staffing strategy, technology systems implementations, recalibrating company culture, reviewing compensation strategies, retention strategies and communicating with employees, continually, throughout the transformation.
Their role in making the transition as seamless as possible makes them unsung heroes in why transitions even manage to be successful. They anchor employees who remained by reminding them that they are still individually known and seen, and that there’s someone on their side helping them through.
At the end of any workday, an HR leader understands that the company has hired them to assist in their success. Many times determining how that success gets achieved goes back to having a deep understating of the company’s culture, values and those who make the company what it is. Empowering them to make decisions on the fly is what ultimately makes it easier for them to gauge and act on prioritizing both the company and its employees.