Navigating the complex terrain of HR challenges and opportunities
HR professionals are facing a demanding landscape, noted Marty Bryson, President of HR Florida State Council, following a panel discussion on current HR trends held on October 19. Recent research underscores the validity of this observation. According to a recent Gartner report, over 80% of HR leaders are anticipated to shoulder a heavier workload compared to three years ago.
Despite the challenges, Bryson, an executive at a healthcare agency, highlighted the positive strides being made by HR departments.
The panel discussion, organized by the Florida Bar, brought attention to four trends that HR professionals may need to navigate in 2024: the dynamics of remote and hybrid work, achieving a balance between work and personal life for employees, a shift from talent acquisition to talent access, and a reimagining of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB).
Addressing Proximity Bias in Remote Work
The transformation in work practices has offered valuable lessons to HR leaders. It has become evident that the nature of work in different industries can affect the equilibrium between employee and business needs. Marty Bryson explained that remote and hybrid work arrangements are most effective for knowledge workers, those who predominantly utilize computers to complete tasks. She emphasized that “remote work is ideal for roles where the worker can communicate with supervisors and other team members via phone calls, video calls, or chat messaging services.”
Remote workers may find themselves excluded from high-impact projects, relationship-building opportunities, and chances for career progression and networking.
However, remote work has introduced a new challenge known as “proximity bias.” This bias occurs when managers give preferential treatment to employees in their immediate physical vicinity. Remote workers may find themselves excluded from high-impact projects, relationship-building opportunities, and chances for career progression and networking. Unlike in-person interactions that encourage collaboration and teamwork through body language and quick discussions, virtual meetings often limit discussions to one person at a time and participants to boxes on a screen. Bryson stressed the importance of proactive managers creating opportunities for all, including virtual networking and team-building activities.
To address employee resistance to returning to the office, HR should explore the underlying reasons, which might involve concerns related to commuting distance, childcare or eldercare responsibilities, or disabilities. Bryson recommended that HR seek solutions that accommodate all employees’ needs.
Customized Work-Life Balance
The panelists highlighted that HR professionals will continue working toward helping employees achieve a healthy work-life balance in the coming year. This balance depends on an employee’s goals and the tools provided by their employer to facilitate them. The discussion emphasized the importance of getting organizational leaders on board with changes, such as transitioning from 12-hour to eight-hour shifts or moving from five-day workweeks to four-day workweeks.
Modernizing the Hiring Process
Labor shortages, retiring baby boomers, and the need for new skills have prompted HR teams to shift from talent acquisition to talent access. This transition represents another prominent issue. It might be time to “modernize hiring,” as traditional hiring processes involve hiring individuals with specific education and experience to meet job requirements. A more contemporary approach involves hiring and training individuals for specific positions even if they lack the exact education or skills. Training and development programs can include upskilling, reskilling, or ongoing learning.
Hiring and training individuals for specific positions even if they lack the exact education or skills.
Additionally, employers may consider bringing retired employees back for specialized projects or investing in programs to help individuals who left the workforce due to caregiving duties transition back to work.
Amid resistance to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging programs in some sectors and a scaling back of DEI initiatives by certain businesses, the panelists suggested that it may be time to rethink DEIB. Diversity goes beyond protected classes, Bryson emphasized. It is about valuing the unique contributions that each individual can bring to the table. DEIB programs are evolving to support the acceptance of uniqueness and emphasize commonalities for a sense of belonging.
To reinvent DEIB, employers may need to take a broader approach, moving beyond superficial visibility programs and integrating diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging into the core fabric of their organizations.”