If one can look for a bright spot in a year with a global pandemic amid heightened social and racial injustice, it’s that CHROs – accountable for keeping their employees connected, engaged, and productive – can rewrite the rules.
“Resilience through Human Connection,” a UK-based Town Hall hosted by Evanta, featured a distinguished panel of HR leaders who shared people challenges while offering insight into a path forward. The panel, moderated by James Saunders, Chief People Officer at Intu Properties, featured:
- Colin Watt, Global Chief People Officer at NCC Group
- Derek Irvine, EVP, Client Strategy & Consulting at Workhuman®
Building resilience has never been more critical than it has in the last eight months. The key theme that emerged from the discussion was that it’s the CHRO’s job to lead the path forward, to ensure employees are “making connections” vs. “being connected.”
It’s the CHRO’s job to future-proof the people strategy in their company. The events in 2020 have given CHROs the opportunity to lift up every member of their workforce, from entry-level to executive, with the tools they need to be agile, innovative, and connected that inspires every person to their best work in their organization.
“Shift the talk to the future,” said Colin. “As we move into this next phase, we don't talk so much about COVID. If you keep referring to the past, our view is that you stay there. Instead, talk about the future.”
“I think one of the gifts that COVID may well give us is that we have the opportunity to create the future now,” said Derek. “There is plenty of change, but we're creating a future together."
Indeed, the CHRO is in a pivotal role at a pivotal time. The panelists shared their own best practices to ensure employees have the resilience to feel connected and engaged – which ultimately leads to productivity.
Give employees gratitude.
One antidote for building resilience is gratitude. “Everybody is stressed and there’s an extra level of stress caused by the massive, global, digital pivot that we're all engaged in right now,” said Derek. “Signaling that we care about our employees and managing that stress is super important
“I'm going to recommend a medicine you might not have thought about. There is a medicine that's called gratitude and thanking people. Gratitude makes us feel emotionally better, so we feel happy when we get thanked. When we feel emotionally better, it has physical benefits. The research shows that people sleep better, have lower levels of stress, and lower blood pressure.”
“The effort that goes into giving gratitude creates a huge snowball effect,” said James, “and triggers multiple things in terms of community and innovation.”
Build peer-to-peer relationships.
“In the future, we really have to turn things on their heads and think about how we can improve all relationships, all connections throughout the organization, not just the manager-employee relationship,” said Derek. “The more we rely upon a manager – it can be a potentially the single point of failure.
“I would encourage everyone to think about what investments and energy you’re putting into encouraging a network effect between all colleagues. Research shows that two of the most significant things employees seek in work are meaningful work and supportive relationships. Connection is everything.”
Give employees choice.
To reduce anxiety, providing employees a choice works well, whether it’s where to work or which hours to work. “Giving people choice and confidence that they can find their own way is a flow through a lot of the conversation today,” said James.
“Provide options for people to work in an office and give them the assurance that they’re going into a safe and clean environment,” said Colin. “If they choose to work from home make sure they have the equipment. This makes a difference.”
Derek spoke about the myriad of celebrations – recognizing life events – that have happened at Workhuman during the last several months – birthdays, weddings, new babies, work anniversaries, new homes, as examples, and that “all of them were celebrated by the crowd. It wasn't the manager that needed to remember. It became alive in the culture. It’s really important that we give people a framework to be human, especially in this digital world.”
“Recognizing humanity and building communities are the things sustaining people through this current phase,” said James.
“Human connections are vital,” said Derek. “They give us resilience. They give us strength, which, in turn, gives us engagement.”
Talk about what’s going on in the world.
“There’s been an awakening in quite a lot of people,” said Colin. “And they are understanding world events. Most calls used to start with a discussion about football results from the weekend. Not anymore. They are talking about world events. People are starting conversations themselves because they want that connection, they want the dialog because they don't want to feel isolated. It supports the whole premise of inclusion.
“One of the other reasons why conversations took off in our organization was that it created a connection across the business on topics that were close to people's hearts. “It just seemed, with world events, that everybody became more vulnerable. They were more alert to things that were going on. And then, that became quite personal.”
Seize the moment – beyond business goals.
“Now can be a time for our organizations to bend the curve of what's happening in society,” said Derek. “We’ve seen studies that show people trust the organization that they work for more than governments.
“This is a collective kick-in-the-pants moment for us all, actually, to say, ‘Here we are, as a work community. We've rallied together during a global pandemic. What else can we positively impact and change?’ Because I don't think we could lose the momentum of the strength that we've shown and the resilience we've shown working together to succeed in a pandemic.”
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