In a working world after restrictions, HR issues are right at the top of employers’ agendas

Shoosmiths is a Business Reporter client

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

As organizations ponder future work patterns after restrictions are lifted, key HR issues never seem more important.

In the heat of the pandemic, the focus on keeping businesses afloat and keeping employees safe while millions were invested in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme kept turnover rates low. But now that restrictions have been lifted, employers face new challenges as companies compete for the best talent and some are willing to pay generously to attract them. Many employees have become accustomed to great flexibility and autonomy, shorter commutes and a better work-life balance. Talent retention and attraction are issues that will dominate HR agendas.

Paul Stokey, Head of Employment at UK law firm Shoosmiths, believes that changing ways of working pose further challenges for HR teams. “The post-containment workplace means HR teams can really make a difference on some of the key challenges that lie ahead,” he says, “but only if they adapt to changing needs and emerging risks.”

Many potential problems arise from an inevitable reduction in face-to-face time, with hybrid work remaining a feature in some sectors. Organizations can find it more difficult to effectively manage performance and ensure that work culture is maintained and encouraged. “To help companies establish new ways of working, such as “Bringing policies and support networks in place to ensure employees are managed effectively when they are not physically next to colleagues requires a different approach,” adds Stokey. “It’s much more difficult to create the same dynamic over phone or video calls.”

HR teams need to adapt the way they monitor and manage performance and provide feedback. It is becoming increasingly important to create protocols that accommodate the fragmented nature of hybrid working, set clear expectations and ensure managers have tools in place to identify and manage performance remotely.

Employee mental health has long been on the HR agenda, but its presence is likely to increase as employees who have worked in semi-isolation for a period are likely to be wary of returning to the workplace, while others may need support with work-related stress and burnout. Training and empowering managers to recognize and deal with warning signs will be crucial. Many companies have established and publicized employee support programs or helplines and established or expanded links with occupational health professionals to support their workforce.

Other pressing employment issues include helping companies incentivize employees in a buoyant labor market where other employers may offer even more flexibility or market-breaking salaries. Looking beyond traditional recruiting pools and developing and upskilling current employees are areas where HR can make a difference. Likewise, when candidates increasingly expect video interviews, the ability to identify the right talent and provide managers with the right tools to recruit presents a recruitment challenge for many. Organizational culture will be critical to retaining talent, and HR will be key to promoting diversity and inclusion to meet all environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies.

It’s clear that HR teams have many important items on their to-do lists – the need to prioritize employment issues in a post-pandemic world cannot be underestimated. Forward-thinking and creative HR teams are well-positioned to help their organizations survive and thrive in an employee-led, post-pandemic world.

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Originally published on Business Reporter In a working world after restrictions, HR issues are right at the top of employers’ agendas

Bobby Allyn

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