Human-centric solutions to 4 major challenges HR leaders face

People are arguably any organisation’s most important assets, and it’s the job of the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) and other HR leaders to ensure each employee is set up for success. From pay and benefits to career growth and even mental health, the CHRO and their teams support and advocate for each worker from initial contact to exit interview. 

That’s a lot of responsibility. This blog explores four of those challenges—and how CHROs should approach them in a human-centric way, harnessing resilience and innovation to build a better business by better empowering people. 

1. Mental health

In the relentless pursuit of profit, organisations and their leaders have often prioritised a hard-driving culture to achieve short-term success. But this mentality reduces people to producers and results in burnout, disengagement and high turnover. Leaders who fail to see the humanity of each worker will eventually experience the long-term failure of hustle culture, which is ultimately bad for the bottom line. 

The human-centric solution for workplace mental health: Empathy

If workers aren’t functioning well, for whatever reason, it hurts the business. But leaders can’t view their struggles through a purely business lens. Naturally, mental health is a complex issue without a one-size-fits-all solution. And as each person’s struggle is slightly different, the possible remedies must also be varied and flexible. To be clear, while CHROs need to build empathy into the culture of the company and the day-to-day workplace experience, they can only go so far in offering help. Primarily, this takes the form of making professional mental health resources available to employees. 

Here are a few ideas for building an empathetic workplace:

  • Ask employees what will be fulfilling and find novel ways to weave that into their responsibilities. 
  • Conduct regular manager-employee check-ins and quarterly reviews that prioritise progress based on these goals. 
  • Make mental health training mandatory for leaders, covering the importance of the well-being of their employees and what to do if they see signs of distress—while offering regular workshops and seminars for employees.   
  • Be mindful of workloads and don’t overburden employees with manual, repetitive tasks that can be automated.

2. Workforce flexibility

Flexibility is really about choice and freedom. They’re two very powerful levers for employers to offer and employees to pull. Hybrid work arrangements—the flexibility to work where and when you want—have been around for decades, but generally haven’t been widespread. They’ve recently increased exponentially, supercharged by the pandemic and ubiquitous technologies that make any time, anywhere connectivity seamless.

The human-centric solution for workforce flexibility: Parity

It’s clear that employees want choice. But for organisations and HR leaders, there are potentially considerable downsides to getting it wrong. Hybrid workforce flexibility means connecting to the organisation’s network from anywhere, at any time, with innumerable devices. While that’s great for employee work-life balance and flexibility, it can be a nightmare for the IT department. 

CHROs and other leaders should look to codify and standardise “experience parity,” which IDC defines as creating a “comparable experience for a hybrid workforce by ensuring that all workers securely interact with corporate resources (including people) with a consistent experience and context across locations.” According to IDC, most companies haven’t achieved this, so there’s a lot of room for improvement.

CHROs shouldn’t view experience parity as strictly an IT challenge. They should take an active role in helping to ensure that everyone has the same flexible options and connection capabilities. They should also offer regular manager training about how to treat and evaluate all employees equally no matter where, when or how they’re connecting and collaborating. 

3. Diversity, inclusion, belonging and equity

Diversity, inclusion, belonging and equity (DIBE) in the workplace has come a long way. Once only a subset of HR, many organisations now feature standalone DIBE departments that provide a core function and are vital to the success of the business. But a historical perspective may only serve to obfuscate the reality that there’s still a lot of work to be done to make the workplace truly diverse, equitable and inclusive.

The human-centric solution to ensure DIBE success: Trust

Organisations that embrace and embody the core tenets of DIBE are more successful at enabling a rich, inclusive experience for their employees, prospects and customers. Innovation thrives in environments where diverse perspectives are valued and employees feel they’re able to contribute to their potential. Additionally, organisations reap the productivity and retention benefits of an employee population that’s motivated, engaged and feels their contributions matter. 

There are many ways to build a sustainable and impactful DIBE strategy that can get traction within an organisation. Here are some tactics CHROs and their organisations should consider:

  • Use data-driven analytics to understand where you are today and set achievable goals
  • Invest money and resources into DIBE initiatives 
  • Write a DIBE mission statement and policy, making it a strategic priority 
  • Create roles and teams dedicated to DIBE 
  • Fund and champion employee resource groups (ERGs) 
  • Identify and mitigate bias (implicit and unconscious) in systems and processes

4. Digitally transforming employee experiences

Digital technologies are now ubiquitous. Whether personally or professionally, we’re constantly using digital devices and apps to conduct the business of life. As covered previously, these technologies have provided support to the remote and hybrid work boom, and their rapid advancement has resulted in a technological skills gap. We now expect the convenience of digital and buy into its promises of increased productivity and speed.

But there’s an ugly truth hiding behind those promises: digital tools can actually hinder productivity and increase frustration if they’re not deployed strategically and used intelligently. According to Gartner, most workers toggle between apps 10 times an hour, amounting to 32 days per worker per year. These same workers also spend 25 percent of their time searching for information they need to do their jobs. Too often, rapid digitisation can have the opposite of its intended impact. 

The human-centric solution to transforming the HR digital landscape: Humans

Organisations and HR leaders should know that they must fully embrace digital transformation. Recruiting, hiring, training and retaining top talent is becoming increasingly competitive as technology has levelled the playing field, and more workers are empowered to dedicate their careers to companies that care about their livelihood, fulfilment and upward mobility. The stakes are simply too high not to offer consistent, convenient, streamlined interactions no matter where, when or how people connect and collaborate. 

The key to a successful HR digital transformation is its humanity. That may seem counterintuitive, but because it’s people who use these tools, HR leaders need to put people at the centre of any technology implementation. Yet again, open and honest communication is crucial to success. Leadership should incorporate constant opportunities for feedback during the planning, implementation, usage and renewal of all digital tools. 

CHROs should look for opportunities to maximise and consolidate their existing investments, and cut any ineffective and unnecessary tools or processes. But they have to accomplish these aims while ensuring that each surviving tool serves a specific purpose and integrates well into the overall HR workflow. Delighting people with efficient, integrated digital HR experiences will go a long way toward long-term brand loyalty. 

Whether CHROs are considering wholesale or gradual changes, another important way to harness the digital revolution is to gather and analyse all the data these HR systems—and employee and customer conversations—are generating. Data will help determine not only where the department’s efforts are paying off but also where they aren’t. And if you’re making a case for increasing investment in HR digital transformation, this data will prove invaluable.