Every HR director knows why it is important to look after the personnel’s well-being. Healthy and happy employees are productive, and there are fewer costs related to disability, such as sick leave. A company that takes care of its personnel is successful when recruiting new talent.
The personnel perspective is gaining importance as companies’ management teams, for various reasons, become more aware of the significance of people and culture. Societies are aging, and more and more sectors are experiencing a shortage of labour. Despite increasing automation and self-service, human labour is required as the economic structure becomes more service intensive. That is why a key question in many companies is how to secure one of the main production factors, i.e., the personnel, by retaining current employees and recruiting new ones.
Work is changing. Knowledge work professions are increasing, and new information technology-related tasks are being added to traditional physical professions. On the other hand, an increasing number of jobs involve customer service. Data processing, creativity, and shaping a positive customer experience are not possible when a person is stressed or insufficiently recovered.
The Covid pandemic period seems to have caused a shift in people’s relationship with work. The ‘quiet quitting’ phenomenon which involves taking a more relaxed attitude towards work – doing your part but no more – has become a relevant topic in the public domain. The pandemic years gave rise to the ‘Great Resignation,’ a phenomenon in which employees began to in earnest think about what they wanted from their jobs and what kind of work they were willing to commit to. Research shows that the number of people considering changing jobs has increased in companies.
When phenomena of this kind are compounded by a scarcity of labour, companies have to work harder than ever to meet the expectations of employees successfully.
It is more important than ever for companies to be able to offer a package that matches employees’ life situations, lifestyles, values, and expectations.
The pandemic specifically impacted knowledge work. The volume of remote work grew and hybrid work, where employees divide up their time between remote work and in-office work, became prevalent in knowledge work. Companies’ hybrid work policies differ, with some designating mandatory in-office days for the personnel and others giving their employees more freedom.
“With companies embracing a more fragmented approach to work, it is, firstly, important to think about practices for maintaining and developing one of the key resources of a workplace, namely a sense of community”
For some people performing knowledge work, mandatory in-office days can be a reason to refuse a job. They might want to work on the other side of the country or halfway around the world. Some employees are looking for shorter working hours due to their life situations or hobby. Employees also consider whether their values match up with the values a company represents.
With companies embracing a more fragmented approach to work, it is, firstly, important to think about practices for maintaining and developing one of the key resources of a workplace, namely a sense of community.
A second factor is related to well-being. Increased teleworking can lead to loneliness and isolation. In remote work, it has become harder for supervisors or the work community to support employees or notice work ability-related issues that would require attention and measures.
When employees have more opportunities to choose their workplace, the working conditions, workplace reputation, and work culture gain importance. The employer reputation of companies spreads on social media and dedicated services in a flash.
A key component of reputation is how a company looks after its employees. A company that wants to – and is able to – offer healthy and safe work will succeed in retaining its current employees and attracting a new workforce. Fostering good working conditions is also a key aspect of sustainability.
In many companies, issues around workability and safe working conditions hit management agendas during the pandemic. Now is not the time for management teams to loosen their grip on HR issues. They should continue with the practices they learned during the pandemic and reinforce them.
What practical measures do companies need to take? I see these measures as three separate steps.
1. Companies need to ensure that HR is given sufficient resources. This means personnel resources, IT systems, and strategic expertise. It is typical for advanced systems and high-quality data analytics and dataanalytics experts first to reach a company’s business operations and only later its HR function. Would it be possible to shorten this distance?
2. Personnel resources should be managed actively. This requires data for setting indicators and targets. Indicators should be integrated with a company’s other indicators at various levels. The management should spend time on HR issues and cast a spotlight on them through their own words and example.
3. The management must ensure that the personnel perspective is genuinely integrated into the business operations, especially during major business transitions and when the operating environment shifts. The company needs to consider what the change means in terms of the personnel’s competence and well-being too.
These three steps ensure that the personnel perspective, through well-being and competence, is part of all decisions made by the company. At the same time, the HR function’s role is reinforced and becomes more strategic.