Another year, another list. I doubt anyone expected at the end of 2020 to still be talking about social distancing, mask wearing, and virtual holiday gatherings. Yet, here we are. In preparing to write this post, I thought about what we have written in the past about making resolutions, plans for new initiatives, and reinvigorating compliance efforts. This year, my list of to do's looks a bit different than in years past. To be sure, some old favorites are back, but I challenge us all to think a bit bigger and a good way beyond our usual list of projects. The times demand it. So hit ground running in 2022, HR Pros, and try on some of the following!
Invest in Your New Managers with Leadership Training
I have always preached about training supervisors, especially middle managers, in how to manage legally and effectively. Hopefully, you are already doing that kind of training. If not, see the next bullet point. This one is a bit different. In this incredibly difficult market for hiring following a long period of challenging work and life tightrope walking, it may help to stave off that expected tsunami of resignations and retirements by investing in your leaders. Think about bringing in an outside trainer to work with new leaders (and experienced leaders who could use thee help) to build their leadership skills. Survey after survey says that the best leaders are empathic, inspiring, and intuitive. Are these qualities easy to teach? No, but they can be learned. Build loyalty and better leaders, along with bonds among workers, by budgeting both the time and money to teach your future leaders how to lead.
Train Your Supervisors
If you have been lax on this through the pandemic, it is time to refocus on your managers, forepersons, supervisors, team leads, and middle managers. These individuals can get your company into legal trouble if they aren't properly trained. They need to learn how to give feedback to employees, to write meaningful performance evaluations, and to answer employee questions about breaks, time off, and employee relations. They also need to know when to handle a problem themselves and when to come to HR. They must have at least a working knowledge of employment laws, know what to do when an employee is injured (or exposed to COVID-19), and understand when something triggers the need to do an investigation. They should know how to document and discipline employees and the reason you are asking them to be more diligent about all of that. Employees at many levels and in many businesses are promoted to management positions because they are good at the jobs they were hired to do: make widgets, bake pastries, teach students, even practice law. However, when their jobs change to managing other people, often people who were formerly their peers, they are often ill prepared to do so.
Assess Your Benefits Through the Lens of Mental Health
We have talked endlessly, and happily more frankly, about workplace mental health in the past year and a half. One of the silver linings of the pandemic, and there are several, is the increased openness with which mental health and wellness are being are discussed. We are regularly telling our employees how important it is to engage in self-care and to ask for help when they need it. But are we modeling that behavior and providing the right inroads for employees to seek the help we know they need? Do your health benefits provide adequate coverage for therapy and inpatient treatment for your employees and their family members? Is the out of pocket costs to the employee affordable? Are there enough qualified providers in your network? Does your EAP provide relevant and critical services? Is it easy to access? Most importantly, do your leaders practice what they preach and are they open and up front about the impact of the pandemic on them?
Retool Your Recruiting, Interviewing and Onboarding
Every type of organization is having difficulty hiring and retaining skilled employees. The fallback solution seems to be raising wages and offering sign on bonuses. To be sure, increasing wages to market rates is not a bad thing. However, this strategy has resulted in businesses poaching employees from one another with short term solutions. At the same time, prospective employees are complaining about being ghosted by companies to whom they have applied for jobs, even after multiple interviews. HRIS systems are losing applications and resumes; and candidates are not hearing back. Even if hired, they cite careless onboarding and lack of training on company specific policies and procedures. They aren't being integrated into their new workplaces. The cost of employee turnover is high, and your current staff may be feeling overworked and underappreciated, especially when new hires come in with a bonus at a comparable or even higher rate of pay. HR has, of course, been stretched to the limit by the pandemic, and everyone is busier than ever, sometimes working with skeleton crews. This phenomenon has created a perfect storm of unhappy long termers and disillusioned new hires. An early focus for 2022 should be to carefully examine your process for finding and bringing in new workers. Take a look at everything with a fresh eye: job postings, interviews, onboarding and introductions, and training and mentorship. An early misstep can send a prospect away or start a relationship off on the wrong foot.
Remember That DEI Committee You Formed?
During the summer of 2020 and since, businesses heeded the cry of their employees and customers to strengthen their resolve to make workplaces more welcoming to all. Statements supporting social justice went up on websites, a training or two took place, and committees were formed. Perhaps your company's DEI initiatives are up and running and meaningful conversations are taking place at work. If so, kudos! In this age of polarization, however, it is going to take more than a statement of support or a training to make real change. Where employees in workplaces can't agree on whether masks should be worn or whether racism and gender discrimination are real, there is no “one size fits all” solution. It is important to get both C-suite and rank and file buy-in to make a DEI initiative work, and the responsibility for creating the initiative and making it go, should not rest primarily with HR. Leadership should come from the top on this one.
Update the Employee Handbook
An oldie but goodie. If your company is like most workplaces, things have changed in the last couple of years. You have spent most of your policy drafting time on COVID-19 related edicts: masks, vaccines, testing and time off. A lot of your workforce is probably still remote or at least hybrid. The laws have changed; the workforce has changed. It is time to dust off the handbook and clean it up. Does it accurately reflect your current practices, benefits and expectations? Do you even have a remote work policy? If your handbook is a legalistic, cut and paste work which has been updated piecemeal over the years, think about a new one, a more useful tool for employees and managers to reference when issues arise, and one that reflects the culture of your business. And you can put your fresh DEI statement right up front.
Last But Not Least…
Give yourself a break, take a little time off, and engage in some self-care during or after the holidays. We're all tired, but we need you HR Pros out there happy and healthy and ready to tackle whatever 2022 brings.
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