Roadmap out of lockdown: where next for HR? Questions answered

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As the UK ploughs forward on its roadmap out of lockdown, HR leaders will be transitioning to the next stage of recovery – shaping working practices not just for survival but for the long term.

In May’s HR Lunchtime Debate, we asked people leaders from both public and private sectors about what this next stage looks like for them and the actions they are taking to make changes positive and effective.

Here panellists Alex Arundale, chief people officer at Advanced; Marshah Dixon-Terry career and leadership coach, organisational development consultant at MDT Career Coaching; and Vicky Robinson, workforce strategy and culture leader at PwC, answer more questions from the audience about hybrid work planning.

 

How do you build confidence when you can’t please everyone?

If there is one thing that is certain about hybrid work planning, it’s that one size doesn’t fit all – by a long stretch.

HR has the impossible task of trying to please everybody within an organisation, but as a helpful reminder, Robinson said: “Whatever strategy you devise will require trade-offs.” In an ideal world, she explained, policies and interventions would be designed at an individual level, but that is impractical in reality.

Robinson added that data will be crucial. “Data allows us to continuously refine our approach and policies and test against cohorts of employees and in some instances doing controlled experiments before scaling initiatives,” she said.

“This allows for two-way learning and allows us to know if we can over index on something else to compensate for an area where we had to make a design choice which was not most optimal for a specific workforce cohort.”

Both Robinson and Arundale have been utilising staff surveys and other listening tools, such as town halls, to gain an idea of employee sentiment.

“These processes are continuing as the situation develops and they will be used to inform decision-making that is employee-focused as well as helping to deliver our business objectives,” said Arundale.

As leaders, she said is can also be useful to share your own experiences and feelings about the change in working patterns to encourage more dialogue with employees.

 

How can you take a more personalised approach to hybrid work?

At PwC, Robinson has observed a work trend towards more personalisation of employee experience which she described as “empowering the individual employee to satisfy their preferences to ‘consume’ work where and how they perform best".

The company describes this shift as “hyperpersonalisation” and bringing the consumer self to work.

Different working styles, therefore, may also need to be taken into account in a new hybrid work plan. Introversion versus extraversion, for example, came up as part of the discussion.

Expanding on how to consider these different personality types in planning, Dixon-Terry advised: “Consider both what the business needs are and how different working styles can enable business needs to be delivered effectively.”

Ask key questions, she said. “Like what are the working practices that need to be established? What has worked well? What has worked less well? What feedback have you gained from your workforce to help inform your plans?”

Arundale also cautioned HR from making assumptions about the preference of introvert or extravert employees.

“It’s not as straightforward as saying that the introverts want to work from home while the extroverts can’t wait to get back into the office,” she said.

Yet, she added, personality is a worthwhile consideration for line managers.

“Line managers will need to be aware that personality types, alongside other factors such as family commitments, or wanting to reinstate the work/home divide may affect levels of desire to stay at home or return to the office.

“If they know their team well and communicate effectively they should be able to take these into account when working with the hybrid work planning framework that we’re setting out,” said Arundale.

 

How can HR help with increasing pressure on line managers?

Throughout the pandemic line managers have arguably become a more critical touchpoint for employees when it comes to direction as well as their overall wellbeing. The remote environment has been challenging and, as report by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) found, line managers are feeling squeezed by the pressure.

Giving line managers the tools to take care of their own mental health as well as that of employees will be a key consideration for HR.

Arundale said: “Line managers also need support to make sure they take care of their own wellbeing and are encouraged to take part in initiatives for their own sake as well as that of their teams. This contributes to a sense of cohesion and workplace camaraderie that is such an important part of working for an organisation and signing up to its ‘brand’, as an employee.”

Wellbeing is also considered a key tenet in management performance at Advanced, ensuring that the organisation takes an integrated approach.

“It’s important that HR teams empower line managers to do what is right and what works for their teams within the overarching structure and philosophy that we set, with clear guidance on the steps they can take to facilitate wellbeing initiatives,” Arundale said.

To alleviate some of the pressure on line managers, Robinson added: “Some organisations are specifically designing 'outside in' interventions, or even looking at the role of the manager going forward to ensure that wellbeing and motivation can be maintained without relying solely on the manager's own judgement and action.”

 

To hear more of this discussion, you can watch this webinar on demand here.

For more detailed coverage of our most recent HR Lunchtime Debates subscribe to HR magazine.

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