It’s fair to say that HR has been one of the busiest departments in many organisations over the last few weeks. With thousands of employees coming back off furlough and returning into offices, leading to 600,000+ notifications being sent out via the NHS COVID-19 app in one week – the people challenges have been coming thick and fast.
Having worked closely with a number of our customers on HR matters throughout the pandemic, and speaking to scores of other customers and businesses around their most pressing challenges, we have a firm grip on some of the most important things to address in HR – imminently.
With that in mind, here are 5 things your HR department should be working on right now.
Hybrid working policy
As we’ve covered in previous blog posts, the global pandemic forced many organisations to adapt quickly to home and remote working, helping them to build up a level of trust, as well as processes around this they may not have even considered before. Going forward into the “next normal”, it’s clear that a more flexible approach to working (both location-wise and time-wise) is the ideal for many employees. 85% of adults currently homeworking would prefer a hybrid approach in future. Now is a vital time to cement your approach to hybrid working – will it be offered as standard to all employees, and new hires going forward? Will it be offered to certain employees? And once you’ve got some of the practicalities nailed, it’s worth thinking about the bigger picture. How do you ensure people working from home feel included and supported? How do you stop feelings of isolation? How do you help hybrid workers be as productive as possible with their time? What changes if employees have to self isolate?
There are a lot of questions here and it’s a very good idea to have answers prepared for them, because as the stats suggest, your employees will be hoping – and maybe expecting – you to support them on this.
On a related note – now is a good time to review other policies too. With more employees working from home, you are at an increased risk of cyber attacks or data breaches. According to research by Deloitte, 47% of people fell for phishing scams whilst working from home, and the number of cyber attacks using previously unseen malware or methods increased from 20% pre-COVID to 35% during the pandemic. Additionally, people may be holding sensitive conversations on Teams or other virtual meeting tools – and you need to be aware of what’s being shared and when.
Hearing what your employees have to say has never been more important. We are heading into an impending culture crisis – employees are heading back into the office after as much as 18 months working from home or on furlough. Their role may have changed, colleagues and friends may have been redundant, and the landscape of your organisation and your industry may have changed significantly. Quality, two-way communication between you and your employees is absolutely key. You need to listen to where they are, and you need to communicate back to them the direction in which the business is heading, and how they fit into this.
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Well-being and burn-out
Burnout is an incredibly hot topic in the HR world at the moment. Many factors like the blurring between work and home during the pandemic, and with many working longer hours, and balancing working with childcare has lead to an increased number of workers feeling the effects of burnout. 46% of workers have said they feel “more prone to an extreme level of stress” than compared with March 2020. What can you be doing as an organisation to support the mental health of employees, and help them avoid burnout? On a purely practical level, you should also consider what you are doing to encourage your employees to take their annual leave allowance. It’s vital that you’re communicating with your employees around the importance of taking a break and maintaining a healthy work life balance.
Handbooks and contracts
A number of customers that we worked with in the height of the pandemic COVID found that they didn’t have the correct clauses set up within employee contracts to instigate furlough – so were stuck having to fill in paperwork in order to furlough employees. It’s vital that you don’t get caught out by fast-moving legislation changes – you should make sure contracts are watertight, to protect you and your employees. And as you bring in things like hybrid working and flexible hours, you should ensure contracts reflect this. Additionally, while you’re reviewing contracts, it’s also an opportune time to review your employee handbooks. Many organisations make the mistake of referring to employee handbooks in their contracts – making handbooks contractual. This means that if you need to update your handbook, you must give your employees 30 days notice. It’s important to lay out clearly whether your handbook is contractual or not – not doing so could lead to some very serious situations.
Equality and discrimination
All the pandemic loomed large in the events of the past year and obviously had a significant impact on businesses – it’s not the only event that drove widespread change. The acceleration of the Black Lives Matter movement sparked widespread discussion and discourse on systemic racism and how we as business, individuals and societies can better uplift people of colour. Just to pick a handful of stats – 52 of 1099 of the most powerful jobs in Britain are held by ethnic minority individuals, and although the ethnicity pay gap is narrowing, the pay gap in certain ethnic groups is as high as 16%. Additionally, over the past year there was increased awareness and visibility around trans and non-binary communities. A recent YouGov poll found that 32% of trans people had experienced discrimination in the workplace in the last five years, and 65% were hiding their status at work, an increase since the last report in 2016.
It’s clear that there’s a lot of work to be done within organisations around how they not just offer equal opportunities to all but also do proactive work to give a voice to these marginalised individuals.
get help with hr
With over a decade of experience supporting organisations with putting their people first, Talk Staff are here to help with the full range of HR challenges. We can support you with:
- Hybrid working policies
- Contract reviews
- Employee engagement surveys
- Mini HR audits incorporating all of the above
Last Updated on 2 years by Charli Parkes