Covid-19 is without a doubt one of the greatest catalysts that drove the workforce and the workplace to evolve. Business transformation became the top business mandate for thousands of organisations to brace the complexities of the global pandemic and shield millions of employees. With the conclusion of 2020, we look forward to a better year, facing uncertainties with HR in the driver’s seat. Despite consistent resistance and backlash from senior executives, HR continues to take the lead.
A positive and strong corporate culture is critical in today’s business landscape. It is not only about establishing a set of mutually agreed expectations for people to follow, it’s about establishing shared values and goals to motivate your people to contribute, grow and inspire. Even before the pandemic, several organisations including multinational corporations made headlines all over the globe for all sorts of misconducts – gender discrimination, sexual harassment, forced labour, data breach, fraud, and more. This can be considered corporate corruption; the opposite of corporate culture.
In Australia, 2019 saw a string of financial and regulatory scandals that rocked the banking industry to its core. Last year in the Philippines, the country’s public health insurance corporation and its officials faced serious allegations of stealing billions from millions of paying beneficiaries. We’ve also seen dozens of executives from different industries resign because of sexual harassment allegations. In these circumstances, it is unfortunate that dedicated employees and trusting customers are caught in the middle. Corporate culture can be easily lost or damaged because of misconducts and controversies no matter the magnitude. There should be a renewed focus on rebuilding and strengthening corporate culture this year and beyond.
This agenda can take different approaches. What does rebuilding corporate culture mean for your organisation?
Corporate culture or organisational culture is one of the 11 human capital reporting areas under the ISO 30414 or the ‘Human resource management – Guidelines for internal and external human reporting.’ Rebuilding corporate culture is one of HR’s biggest challenges this year. In partnering with different departments and functions, this challenge is achievable.
The greatest asset of every organisation is its employees. This is a universal truth and one of the greatest lessons we learned, or relearned, during the pandemic. The agenda of employee centricity goes beyond employee engagement, candidate care, training initiatives and leadership programs. These days, it is more about establishing and delivering strong relevant people policies for employee wellbeing.
Moving forward we foresee a strong focus on technology helping organisations better understand their employee behaviour and needs. One example is the emergence of the ‘Internet of Behaviours’ or IoB. Through digital tools, advanced analytics and automation, organisations can gather data and generate actionable insights on their employee behaviour and how it’s being influenced. HR and IT both play vital roles in expanding this idea and building momentum around employee centricity.
There is also an ongoing agenda to utilise modern technologies to scale the mental health needs and support required for employees. According to a 2020 global study by Oracle, 82% of people believe robots can better support their mental health compared to humans. As per the study, robots can provide unbiased and judgment-free support. This report alone is already a strong indicator to further the cause of employee or people centricity among organisations. There is no substitute for human connection.
Employee centricity enabled by tech will allow HR to be more strategic and go beyond a liability-focused function.
HR secured its seat at the table and now, it’s time HR leads the discussion. There are a lot of executives out there that started in HR. One great role model is Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors. Right after Barra took the job in 2014, she faced one of GM’s greatest crises – the great recall. Because of an ignition switch malfunction, the company was required to recall more than 2 million cars. Through her leadership, GM managed to recover from that, and Barra is now one of the most renowned leaders in the automobile industry across the globe, as well as a champion for women’s rights.
It’s nothing new to see HR professionals taking top executive positions despite not getting the same opportunity and resources for business leadership. Not all CEOs have substantial experience when it comes to the human element of their organisation.
Jeremie Brecheisen, Senior Managing Consultant for Gallup believed that HR leaders should become the CEO, but sadly, that’s not always the case. In one of his articles he wrote, “leading people should not be a reward; it should be a responsibility that requires talent and training. And that training must include expertise in the most important part of any organisation, its people.”
In 2020, there was a strong call from HR leaders, business analysts and workers to make HR a top player. People are calling on executives to allow HR to influence the C-suite for many promising reasons. One of those is the fact that HR’s strategic and empathetic approach to leadership yields a more robust bottom line – this impacts employee retention and enforces workforce engagement.
HR taking the lead will usher in the generation of organisations asking and answering the question ‘What it means to be a great employer?’
The future of work is upon us and there are clear opportunities for HR and other departments to capitalise on and that includes learning and adapting to significant Covid-19 disruptors to improve corporate culture and business models.
Here at Will, we are starting from within by educating all of our employees about what it means for HR to take the lead. We will be holding focus groups with senior leadership managers to ask them areas we can all improve on to better serve our employees, clients and communities. We believe that achieving a prosperous future of work demands a collective and holistic approach with every stakeholder involved.
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