HR issues top of employer agendas in a post-restriction world of work

HR issues top of employer agendas in a post-restriction world of work

Shoosmiths is a Business Reporter client

The post-restrictions workplace means HR teams can really make a difference.

As organisations contemplate future working patterns following the lifting of restrictions, key HR issues have never seemed more important.

In the heat of the pandemic, a focus on keeping businesses afloat and employees safe, while millions were placed on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, kept attrition rates low. But now that restrictions have lifted, employers face new challenges, with businesses fighting over the best talent and some prepared to pay handsomely to attract it. Many employees have become used to significant flexibility and autonomy, reduced commuting time and better work-life balance. Talent retention and attraction are issues set to dominate HR agendas.

UK law firm Shoosmiths’s head of employment, Paul Stokey, believes changes in ways of working present further challenges for HR teams. “The post-restriction workplace means HR teams can really make a difference to some of the key people challenges that lie ahead,” he says, “but only if they adapt to changing needs and emerging risk.”

Many potential issues stem from an inevitable reduction in face-to-face time, with hybrid work remaining a feature in some sectors. Businesses may find it harder to effectively manage performance and ensure work cultures are being maintained and promoted. “Helping businesses establish new ways of working, such as deploying policies and support networks to ensure staff are effectively managed when they aren’t physically alongside colleagues, demands a different approach,” Stokey adds. “It’s much harder to create the same dynamic over telephone or video calls.”

HR teams will need to adapt the way they monitor and manage performance and provide feedback. Establishing protocols that account for the fragmented nature of hybrid working, setting clear expectations, and ensuring managers have tools to identify and manage performance remotely, will become increasingly important.

Employee mental health has long been on HR agendas, but its presence is likely to increase when staff who have worked in semi-isolation for a while are likely to be cautious about returning to the workplace, while others may need support for work-related stress and burnout. Training and enabling managers to identify and deal with warning signs will be key. Many businesses have established and publicised employee support schemes or helplines, alongside introducing or strengthening links with occupational health professionals to support their workforce.

Other pressing employment issues include helping businesses incentivise employees in a buoyant job market where other employers may offer yet more flexibility or market-busting salaries. Looking beyond traditional recruitment pools and developing and upskilling current employees will be areas where HR can make a difference. Equally, being able to identify the right talent and giving managers proper tools to recruit, when candidates increasingly expect video interviews, presents recruitment challenges for many. Organisational culture will be critical in retaining talent, and HR will be key to fostering diversity and inclusion to meet any environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies.

It’s clear HR teams have many important items on their to-do lists – the necessity of prioritising employment issues in a post-pandemic world cannot be underestimated. Forward-thinking and creative HR teams will be well placed to help their businesses survive and flourish in an employee-led post-pandemic world.

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Originally published on Business Reporter