The role of Human Resources has changed over the years. Today, HR leaders are key players in building and establishing positive workplace environments across remote, hybrid, and in-office teams.
Here are 5 things your HR team might consider prioritizing in the coming year:
1. Diversity & Inclusion
Diversity includes making hiring decisions that reflect a well-rounded team with a variety of backgrounds, including actively avoiding team homogeny when possible. There needs to be a culture in place that understands diversity makes teams strong.
With that said, having a team that’s diverse isn’t enough. HR teams not only play a role in ensuring that people with diverse backgrounds get hired, but also that every voice is heard. This is the vital (vital, vital) difference between diversity and inclusion.
While diversity focuses on representation in the workplace, inclusion focuses on accommodating and helping different groups feel like they belong. Many workplaces don’t even get to a point of inclusion — a 2020 Gartner survey shows 88% of HR leaders felt their organization had not been effective at increasing diverse representation. And it’s awfully hard to make voices heard if they’re not there to speak.
This drove some change, and McClean & Company’s 2021 Workplace Trends said diversity and inclusion are the top HR priority. As 2022 continues, likely will this trend. Diversity and inclusion span all areas of HR and need to be at the forefront of all projects. No exception. If diversity and inclusion are the biggest initiatives though, we’re not going to make you guess what that looks like. Here are some ways to increase workplace inclusion and diversity in effective, healthy ways.
Inclusion Training for Employees & Managers
Step one for inclusivity is implementing appropriate training for employees and managers. What you shouldn’t do is hope that acceptance “just happens.”
Drive change by making a workplace more cognizant of cultural dynamics. Shows how these cultural differences affect individuals and cultures, and how those trends bleed over into workplaces. Choose engaging methods for training — there are plenty of options that teach the basics in the form of interactive games or sitcoms.
And with that said, training is for everyone and training shouldn’t be just once. Host refreshers, send out inclusive messaging, and make an effort to celebrate every background. Part of having an inclusive workplace is designing a space that’s just as diverse as the world around us — and that requires consistent learning.
Finding Diversity & Inclusion Through Recruiting
When your workplace is prepared to take on a new employee, use your recruiting as a way to drive diversity and inclusivity.
One method is to expand recruiting channels. If you’re receiving the same types of applicants over and over on LinkedIn, it’s possible that the new employee you’re searching for just isn’t on LinkedIn. That might be for personal, cultural, or barrier-of-entry reasons. Choose to expand recruiting channels, even posting on boards specific to offering opportunities to different groups of people — often called “diversity boards.”
Hiring managers should be well-versed in non-biased resume reads and interviews. Analyzing job postings for language that might not come across as inclusive. Exclusionary language can position the job as already having a specific “type” of person in mind, and may come across as a company not actually open to welcoming diverse applicants.
Track and Report DEI Metrics
DEI refers to diversity, equity, and inclusion — the three main efforts that go into a truly welcoming workplace for everyone. DEI Metrics are numbers and analytics that take into account business aspects (hiring practices, retention, promotions, etc.) and compare them to race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious background, and more.
DEI Metrics help teams increase diversity from start to finish, from the day an employee is hired to the day of their senior leadership promotion. Unfortunately, businesses can be driven by emotional decisions. Sometimes applicants or employees aren’t seen as equals when they have all the same qualifications. Sometimes patterns in promotions aren’t seen until years down the line — when it’s too late, and diverse employees have left for better opportunities elsewhere.
Reporting DEI Metrics might be a scary thought, especially if your numbers are looking a little unfavorable. Reporting on DEI Metrics is extremely important though. It shows employees that are underrepresented that you do actually see them. It brings to light issues in the workplace to everyone, which turns inclusion into a group effort. And, it helps hold a company accountable. Reporting the same DEI Metrics each year? Not great. But knowing that the whole company will be viewing those numbers can be the push needed to drive genuine diversity and inclusion efforts.
Establishing Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
Employee resource groups, or ERGs, are groups of coworkers who join together in a workplace-based environment based on shared characteristics or life experiences. ERGs are designed to provide support, enhance career development, and drive personal development.
For workplaces in the fledgling stages of becoming more diverse, ERGs provide a safe space for employees with similar life experiences to find a genuine connection. The end result is true friendships between coworkers. Benefits of ERGs that go above and beyond might be co-hosted cultural celebrations or grass-roots movements for more inclusive workplace dynamics.
2. Active Listening
Once you’ve got a diverse and inclusive team at work, you’ve got a bigger goal to tackle: keeping that team there. Employees are certainly likely to quit workplaces before their time is up if conditions aren’t inclusive. How do you know if your workplace is one that people want to stay at? You listen.
Active listening is different from listening. Listening to your teams’ opinions might look like having an open and optional suggestions box, or tossing in a “Does anyone have anything else?” at the end of a monthly meeting. These methods of listening aren’t active enough.
Active listening involves listening without the intent of changing anyone’s mind. It’s more than exit interviews and annual reviews. Frequent surveys, quarterly reviews, and anonymous feedback open up your company to genuine criticism. (You can even ask people who didn’t make it through your interview process how your company comes across…if you’re feeling bold.) In addition, the way you word your requests for feedback can drastically change responses.
Consider the following:
[Optional] Do you have any feedback for the team?
[Required] If you had to say there was a problem in the workplace, what would it be?
Optional questions mean not everyone answers — which can make those who do answer feel nervous that their answer may eventually be tied to them despite anonymity. Required questions, especially ones that ask for the worst-case scenario, force employees to really consider workplace dynamics. You’re likely to receive more creative, thoughtful answers — as opposed to the typical, “Nope! Everything is good!”...especially when everything is not good.
Lastly, you’ll want to set up HR business partners across all departments. Pick someone from each department to take on department-specific inner workings. Make sure to check in with functional leaders to get a full understanding of team-specific challenges, as the culture in one department might be entirely different from another.
3. Learning and Development
Your company is growing, adapting, and changing, oftentimes at a rapid pace. Providing career training and development not only provides increased engagement and retention but shows your employees that you are invested in their success.
Start by training your people managers on how to have two-way conversations around employee development. A study by Degreed and Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning found that 61% of employees want to align on “learning to my skill gaps.
Offering learning paths and funding external courses are great places to start. They also provide a jumping-off point for larger initiatives like Employee Resource Groups for leadership, career pathing, and mentorship programs.
4. Organizational Agility
Okay: you’ve got everyone trained, your workforce is diverse, and you’ve got plenty of training and response opportunities in place. You’re all set, right?
The word is rapidly changing. A pandemic and remote work totally shook the cultural foundation of our society. As if that wasn’t scary enough, the world will likely keep rapidly changing. Probably forever. And while some companies are fighting that, others are embracing the challenge. Your workforce needs to be ready for new situations and, moreover, ready to address them head-on.
When the world changes, the workplace does — and your “work design” needs to align with current trends. Your focus should be on a community of employees that isn’t just prepared for the best day at work, but also the tougher ones. It’s vital to build organizational resilience — the backbone of your company, made up of employees that don’t get going when the going gets tough.
To do so, keep up with some of the expectations employees are now prioritizing.
Offer flexible hybrid or remote work. For those who want to be in office, make sure offices are compliant with health regulations, and comfortable. Teams that are spread out across multiple cities may also appreciate a budget for a rented workspace like a WeWork.
In addition to WFH, employees are coming to expect more flexible hours — especially for teams across multiple time zones. Don’t be afraid to allow some West Coast employees to start earlier if it fits their personal schedule and you’ve already got East Coasters starting early anyway.
Provide stipends for work-from-home or at-home office upgrades. Ergonomic office supplies are scientifically proven to positively impact employees, and what parent with at-home children wouldn’t appreciate some noise-canceling headphones?
This is a time when sickness is prevalent. You never know when an employee is choosing to work through illness to avoid a smaller paycheck, or helping nurse a family member back to health. Health and wellness initiatives — including extra PTO, mental health days, and paid subscriptions/memberships — can show your employees you really care.
Encourage employee stake in the company: rewards for initiatives, and progress that’s met with bonuses, equity, or stock options.
If the cost of hiring someone new is higher than it was in the past, don’t just hire them at a higher salary. Hire them at a higher salary, and give raises to existing employees in similar roles to encourage them to stay.
And most of all: a different mentality. Work is different now. Has your mindset changed?
One of the biggest issues in making lasting changes is a lack of ownership. It’s easy for upper management to agree on a more cohesive workplace, and much harder for someone to make sure it happens. Take accountability in transforming your digital workplace, whatever that means for your company. Not only will your coworkers thank you, but you’ll thank yourself. You’re making the company healthier for everyone, after all.
5. Connection and Belonging
Of course, all of the above is just the beginning. Much like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, your teams’ access to financial wellness, health initiatives, and basic communication covers only the basics. After that, you need to focus on something bigger: connection.
This just isn’t the time to be shy. More than 60% of employees say it’s important that their company actually cares about their families and communities. In a time where the lines between work and home have become completely blurred, it’s time to lean into shared experiences and conversations. Not only that, but you know what your employees are up to outside of work directly impacts work itself. Why not get to know them better?
Belonging matters. When employees don’t feel like they belong at your company, the whole team suffers. Once you recognize that people are genuinely social in nature — despite what your more introverted team members might say — you can better support a safe space for building connections. The best human resources departments function as human resources leaders. Instilling a culture of belonging is absolutely your responsibility, from Day 1 to Day 1,000 (and beyond).
Some ways to encourage belonging include:
A robust onboarding program.
Comprehensive welcome documents with key info.
Directories on employees with personal and professional details.
Weekly all-hands with a free-flowing conversation.
Approachable leadership that welcomes constructive criticism.
Mentorship programs that connect new and tenured employees.
Wisq Helps Employees Connect — And Stay at Your Company
Of course, connection doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t help that some businesses hope to encourage connection by having employees interact within company systems. A Slack #watercooler channel amongst hundreds of work-oriented notifications isn’t going to breed fun conversation. Asking about everyone’s weekend before a company standup where everyone talks about their projects for the week isn’t going to encourage deeper discussions.
When it comes to employee belonging, you need a platform like Wisq. Wisq is a platform that gives employees the chance to actually get to know one another. They can interact by posting, joining employee groups, or hopping into an audio room for a casual chat. Powered by artificial intelligence features that connect similar coworkers and provide personalized feeds for each employee, your team is guaranteed to make friendships that go beyond the four walls of their home office.
To start improving your employees’ experiences in a way that matters, contact our sales team for a platform walkthrough and more details on tailoring your Wisq experience to your company.