The HR industry has changed almost beyond recognition over the last few decades, thanks to a range of cultural and technological factors. The pace of these changes has been accelerated in recent years, thanks largely to the Covid-19 pandemic and the successive lockdowns that went with it.
In 2023, it’s likely that we’ll see further developments. So, what might they be, and how can we anticipate and manage them?
After the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen workplaces across the world adjust to a new way of doing things, with nearly 50% of all employees working remotely during the pandemic, this is no surprise. Many might have sought to synthesise the old centralised working model with the remote one that prevailed during lockdown.
In other words, workers are combining a little bit of work in a central location with a little bit of remote work. You might do tasks that don’t require collaboration and creative, collective problem-solving while you’re at home, and then come in for meetings at certain times of day, or on days that require face to face collaboration between employees. So-called hybrid working allows us to enjoy some of the flexibility benefits that come with remote work, without compromising on the business’s centralised culture. Everyone, ideally, should feel a part of the business – even if they rarely actually step onto the premises due to switching to a remote or hybrid contract.
How does the change to remote working affect HR?
This means that HR departments are under a different kind of pressure. How do you keep track of employees who rarely come into work? The answer is, typically: with the help of the right technology, and the right legal expertise. This is where employment law specialists, such as Christina Morton from Withers, have been working alongside HR departments, and helping them to navigate a new kind of landscape. This is especially prevalent with managing new employee contract models that were created to accommodate this shift in working, like hybrid employee contracts. Similarly, there has been a large uptake in the number of employees who were recruited to a remote contract, or changed to a remote contract after the change in working pattern occurred, so this has to be properly overseen a facilitated by HR employees.
Mental health and wellbeing in business
In the west, mental health has become a special concern over the last few years. Suicide rates crept up slightly in 2021 – though this represents a decline from the figure in 2019. We should note, however, that maintaining good mental habits can benefit the mental health of just about anyone – much like physical exercise can be beneficial even for people who aren’t injured.
How can HR support employee mental health?
Workplaces can play a role in supporting mental health. By paying attention to stress levels and managing workload accordingly, HR departments can help workers to stay in shape, mentally. This not only has ethical benefits: it will also drive up productivity within the business by decreasing the number of days off employees need due to mental health and stress related problems.
So how can employers cater for the mental health of employees? It is important to make it simple and easy to discuss mental health with management, or similarly, having an appointed mental health officer who can talk to employees about their problems. Many businesses have taken this approace by appointing a mental health officer, similarly to how businesses have an officer for health and safety within the workplace.
With many workplaces starting to take a priority in looking after the physical health of employees through work benefits like fitness and physical therapy discounts, there has now been an increase in the number of mental health support programmes offered by employers. This is in aim to match the prevalence mental health has taken in recent years and it’s affects on people’s day to day lives.
Cost of living Challenges to HR
According to one study, 70% of HR professionals reported that cost of living is their most significant challenge for 2023. With 50% believing that employee retention will be the next challenging phase in 2023.
Why is this? It’s more difficult to keep employees happy at a time when costs are rising and wages aren’t keeping up. This is where the right incentives can make a big difference to staff turnover.
How can you retain employees during economic struggle?
A good HR department should be able to determine which incentives will make the biggest difference, and manage pay so that talent can be retained. Similarly, the HR department should frequently analyse the job market, looking at similar roles in the industry and continually evaluating whether they are paying a competitive salary to employees for their job role. This is a key factor to ensuring that employees feel happy within their role and do not feel undervalued, which can lead to employees leaving the business.
Employee retention is a main focus within the HR department, with high staff turnover being detrimental to businesses. The rising cost of living occurring in some countries has presented a challenge to HR professionals to find ways to keep staff motivated and happy, whether this is through pay increase or other means such as employee benefits and guidance.