When asked to name the three top causes of stress for employees, HR leaders cited childcare/eldercare, career advancement and medical issues as their top three. In our State of Work survey, the top three were personal debt, medical issues and mental health, matching only one of employees’ top three. The lack of attention drawn to mental health (HR leaders ranked it sixth) is concerning because, as we noted in that story, mental health has suddenly emerged as a significant concern among American workers and HR leaders need to evaluate this. HR leaders ranked personal debt 13th among our list of stressors, and one could make the case that addressing career advancement and addressing personal debt are just flip sides of the same coin. Another way to look at it is that better compensation means much more to an employee than a higher title.
Employee well-being is a key retention strategy, as previously mentioned, so besides talking about what factors are most important, HR leaders were asked to assess how well they were doing addressing five aspects of wellbeing – emotional, financial, physical, professional and social wellbeing. HR leaders said employee well-being has become somewhat to much better The last two State of Work studies have asked whether “I have confidence in the senior leadership of my company” with those agreeing or completely agreeing rising from 57% to 61%.
We also asked professionals to talk about what types of work they are doing and the considerations they are making about changing some of those initiatives. First off, 63% said they are likely to explore a revised business model because of COVID-19, so adjusting workplace programs and rules in response to the pandemic is still top of mind.
Additionally, we found HR leaders perceptions on the effects of COVID-19 on the workplace to be more in line with employees’ expectations. For instance, HR leaders strongly identified “Flexibility in how/where/when employees work” as the single most important COVID-19-related work model revision and this strongly matched how employees similarly saw a flexible workplace as a top attractor to a company.
The sizable majority (72%) also agreed data drives their organizational decisions, but how is that being obtained. Outside consulting certainly is a popular option. Seventy-four percent say they have a strong, trusted relationship with an HR consultant, with slightly more than half (55%) indicating they will spend more on outside consultants in the next year.
As human resources departments continue to monitor and develop programs to adapt to changing workplace environments, It becomes more important to engage with employees effectively. HR leaders should understand their stressors, needs and expectations in order to build programs and prioritizations that create real value for workers. Finally, for HR leaders to make any necessary changes to policies that would address these concerns, they must first have the authority to do so, and that means being closer to where decisions are made.
“When we’re talking about company leadership, HR must have a seat at the table,” said Glowa.
HR leaders are now dealing with the fallout of an unprecedented disruption in working conditions. While the technological ability to switch to remote working locales for so many undoubtedly saved countless billions of dollars and millions of jobs, HR leaders are now in the midst of reckoning with the “human consequences” of these changes – assessing a new understanding of “work/life balance,” adjusting to satisfy new benefits expectations and recognizing new stressors on their employees.
Our report identified what HR leaders are doing and thinking about these issues, and in that way, it can be used as a lens with which to examine an individual company’s practices. In all circumstances, though, effective human resources policies rely on the presence of these three factors:
- Listening to employees through rigorous, non-biased methods
- Assessing and deciding on solutions that address the issues in a cost-sensible manner
- Leveraging HR’s status within a company’s leadership hierarchy
to carry out the programs that will help ensure a company’s prosperity by attracting and retaining an engaged, talented and secure workforce.