Your role has never been easy – and now you face even more HR challenges.
Before the pandemic, HR pros handled daily dilemmas and long-term projects in stride, all the while keeping your finger on the pulse of the company.
Now, many companies don’t exist in the same way – from fully remote and hybrid to reconfigured so employees stay safe.
People, companies and realities changed.
That’s presented new challenges for HR. Here are the top five issues for HR leaders (and almost anyone who manages people), plus expert tips on how to handle them:
Gauging employee morale
Almost half of HR leaders in a recent study from Paychex said it’s more difficult than ever to gauge employee morale.
Makes sense, right? Many employees aren’t in sight. Those who are on-site are likely wearing masks. It’s tough to gauge if people are happy if you can’t see them smiling.
But it’s not just a physical test. Everyone has been stressed for more than a year. How do you know if they’re overly stressed by life, or if they really aren’t happy and motivated with work?
Best answer: Survey them. Whether you use an app, email or paper, ask employees to rate their morale and engagement compared to pre-COVID days. Ask what they think could improve engagement and morale, too.
Keeping remote employees healthy
HR pros are often concerned about employee health – physical and mental – and offer opportunities to help employees improve that. But in any kind of remote work setting, it’s a bigger challenge because you can’t see if employees are suffering any visible symptoms. HR also can’t be as sure employees know how to easily access health benefits remotely.
To help meet this challenge, HR pros want to gear up efforts to promote your mental health benefits. It’s a good idea to offer employees outlets to relieve stress and mental health issues – such as counseling, yoga, meditation, exercise, and work/life balance policies. More importantly, you want to share information on all of those often and through several communication channels.
Regularly invite employees to give feedback and ask for clarification so you’re sure they understand what’s shared.
Monitoring employee behavior
About 45% of HR leaders say monitoring employee behavior is more challenging than ever. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise. If you don’t see employees every day – and how they work and interact with other employees – it’s difficult to know if they’re always acting as they should.
“This can certainly cause a heightened level of stress and anxiety which can impact work relationships and partnerships,” says Nina Nelson, HR services area manager at Paychex. “Communicating primarily through email and messaging services could also lead to more instances of misunderstanding in employee interactions than in a face-to-face setting.”
Monitoring employee behavior shouldn’t just be about making sure they don’t do things they shouldn’t. You want to keep an eye out to be sure they’re thriving and engaged.
Encourage front-line managers to meet – in-person or virtually – with employees weekly to make sure they have the resources they need. They can also use the time to check on each employee’s general wellbeing.
Adapting to new workstyles
HR leaders in the Paychex study say it’s a challenge for employees to adapt to remote work, whether that’s full-time or hybrid. Surely, even some HR leaders struggle to adapt, too.
Some employees adapted and did well enough when working from home was necessary. Other employees could continue to work remotely forever. And some employees struggle with family demands and inadequate resources to work at home as well as they’d like.
So how can everyone overcome changes and adapt better?
“The key to maintaining flexible thinking and nimble behavior is to not allow our brains to fall into the trap of cognitive biases,” says Susan Robertson, a creative thinking expert. “Every time ‘Yes, but … ‘ is uttered, the response needs to be ‘What if we could solve for that?’ This reframing of the problem into a question will trigger our brains to look for solutions, instead of instantly rejecting the idea.”
Recruiting new employees
When the pandemic hit, most companies stopped – or at least slowed – hiring. Now, many companies geared back up, and nearly 40% of HR leaders struggle to recruit new talent.
Yes, it’s different (and more difficult) to find new hires in the current labor market. And yes, it can be daunting to decide on hires when you interview virtually and meet masked in person.
But some HR leaders are overcoming these issues. How?
“It’s really important to make sure that there’s a solid understanding of what good looks like?” said Lauren Smith, vice president at Gartner Research, in the HBR IdeaCast. “What are the skills that are required for this job? What are the experiences that a good candidate would have, or outcomes that they have achieved in previous roles?
“Making sure that the interview process is founded on those, whether that’s virtual or in person is incredibly critical,” Smith continued. “In addition, hiring managers need to make sure that they’re being authentic in terms of communicating to the candidate about the current state of the office, the workplace, the culture, how it’s evolving.”
Virtual onboarding and remote work also widen the talent pool for most organizations. That’s important for recruiting a more diverse workforce and attaining (and retaining) top talent.