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We think understanding what business leaders are focused on on the people front is important for all of us who care about having JoyPowered® workspaces filled with people doing their best work.
Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we help HR and business leaders embrace joy in the workplace. I’m Susan White, owner of Susan Tinder White Consulting, an HR consulting practice. Joining me is my co-host and dear friend JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, a large-scale HR firm that I’m an executive collaborator with.
Today we are going to talk about what the hot topics are in human resources as we begin 2024. We think understanding what business leaders are focused on on the people front is important for all of us who care about having JoyPowered® workspaces filled with people doing their best work. In preparation for this podcast episode, we went to Gartner’s “Top Priorities for HR Leaders in 2024,” which is an ebook that is free and downloadable for anyone. We’ll put in our show notes the link to get it. Gartner surveyed more than 500 HR leaders in 40 countries to first understand the challenges employers are facing and then understand how Chief People Officers are responding through setting their priorities. Here’s the major challenges – and JoDee, why don’t we just share these back and forth? The number one challenge is the unsettled employee-employer relationship. And under that it’s flexibility controversy. I love that… that term. Only 26% of organizations report their employees fully comply with being in office rules.
Isn’t that something? So they’re trying to figure out, what do you do with people who don’t comply?
The second unsettled employee issue is almost 50% of employees believe their current performance level is unsustainable. They feel like they’re working so hard and they’re not going to be able to sustain that. And then finally, and here’s the one that really, I think, is disturbing for the unsettled employee. Only 50% of employees trust their organization.
Wow, that’s a tough one. Really tough. Yeah. The second issue is the persistent skills shortage. And I have to say, I don’t think that one is going to get any better for a while, right? We know the labor force is shrinking and many candidates for positions just aren’t skilled or have the necessary skills, experience, and knowledge to fill particular roles. So employers, I think, are going to have to step up in doing upskilling or job skilling for future candidates as well. They… they’re going to have to take it into their own hands, I think, to get people the skills they need to fill their role.
Yep, waiting for it to get better on its own, I don’t think it’s gonna happen. I think you’re right.
The third major challenge is the rising impact of artificial intelligence on organizations and on the workforce. 68% of executives agree that benefits of AI do outweigh the risks. Only 22% of HR leaders are highly involved in business-wide discussion about incorporating and optimizing AI into the organization. So we need to get at the table in the having dialogue about this, because the opportunity on the people front for AI I think is very, very strong.
Right. And number four, the pressure for operational efficiency; that is, doing more with less. I think as, you know, we go back to number two and that persistent skills shortage and also the shrinking labor force, there is a lot more pressure on people in organizations to do more with less. And as we mentioned earlier, it’s just not sustainable for them to keep that up. So it’s, you know, hurting retention, as people get to that point where they’re simply maxed out, they’re gonna leave those organizations.
Think you’re right. So based on these being the major issues that we’re facing right now, how are Chief People Officers prioritizing what they’re going to work on? Well, number one priority is leader and management development. So at issue, HR leaders say their managers are overwhelmed by the growth of their job responsibilities, and some stats to help support that: They say that one in five managers would prefer not being people managers.
They really want to opt out, but unfortunately, they’re in the role. Right?
The second stat, only one in two employees say that their managers treat them with respect. Ouch.
I know. So what are organizations planning to do about it that have made management leadership development a priority? So we want to reset role expectations. Really let people understand what it’s like to be a manager in your organization, the good, the bad, the ugly. They want to rebuild manager pipelines in 2024, meaning let’s figure out who are the right candidates inside the organization, and let’s give them the skills they need to be our manager of tomorrow. They want to wire manager habits. So if people aren’t being treated respectfully, we’ve got to rewire that communication, what’s being said, how it’s being said, when it’s being said. And then finally, remove process hurdles. I do think that employees do get beaten down when there’s so many barriers to getting the work done, when there’s needs improvement, or there’s process improvements needed, or things just seem laborious, you take the spirit out of their… their workday. So what can we do to help make work seem much more streamlined, much more fun to do?
Yeah. I would guess, too, that a lot of those managers, especially the ones who say they don’t want to manage people – they want to be a manager, but they don’t want to manage people – is because they’re not trained in it, or they’re not, you know… they’re not…
They’re not confident, right?
Because they’re not good at it. Right?
Right, right. And that leads them likely to be frustrated and not treat people with respect in the process. So I think you gotta help managers be better. If you aren’t, I always say if you only train one group of people in your organization, make it be your managers. They have the biggest impact on so many people.
Number two is organizational culture. 41% of HR leaders say employees’ connection to the culture is compromised by hybrid work. Interesting. We are not all physically together when we work anymore, so building a strong team culture isn’t as easy as it once was. Gartner found that the best organizations prioritize enabling employees to emotionally engage with the company’s culture, wherever and whenever they work. They believe it takes intentional efforts by leadership to spend time aligning and connecting employees to the company culture, and being supportive of micro-cultures that will emerge with the employees who do interconnect. I just want to add to, in that second sentence I mentioned about, you know, us working remotely or hybrid, it certainly is not as easy to connect with others on our teams or to build those strong cultures, but it’s not — I believe it’s not impossible, right? We just have to work harder. We have to be more creative about… we have to think differently about doing that.
I think you’re so right. And I know we’ve done or talked about this in other podcasts. So listeners, don’t hesitate to go back and take a look. I think we recorded one not too long ago called “Making Remote Work Work.”
Take a listen. I think it’s important that the leader say this is important to us, we’re not going to be physically together, and so let’s figure out ways that we create a culture that works for everyone. And by just letting people know it’s important, I think you’ll get people to start figuring out together, how do we build relationships here, and how do we build a place where we all can be proud to work?
Yeah, love it.
So the third priority that HR leaders, according to Gartner, are really setting forth for 2024 is emphasis on HR technology, which I can’t think of a year in the last couple of decades that this hasn’t been a priority, but ever so important this year. 60% of HR leaders are uncertain about the impact of the very rapidly evolving technology like generative AI on our staff members. Gartner found that HR leaders should be thinking about how to create a future ready HR technology stack. We need to focus on standing up strong governance, integrate our technology solutions into workforce readiness plans, assess risks and ethics of technology that we plan to use, and finally keep abreast of ever-changing vendor landscape. Because there are more and more options out there that you’re ready to just buy and plug in, and you really want to make sure that you’re using ethical, positive platforms that’s going to help deliver human resources to your organization. New and better options may come to market. You don’t want to be married to an old and outdated platform, and yet you don’t want to jump too quickly into something that doesn’t get you the real return on the investment that you’re making.
Right. I have to tell you, Susan, I am bombarded daily with emails or people on LinkedIn trying to sell me new HR technology. And, you know, I feel like we have pretty top of the line HR technology, but it could be a full-time job, right, to just keep up with what’s out there and what’s available and what’s the best and what’s ethical and all those things, too, because it’s just coming at us so quickly.
Great point. Do you have somebody on your team that they kind of take to this, they really like this type of thing, and that they’re the ones that you have kind of vet anything that looks interesting to you?
Well, it’s a combination of people. Kim Dinwiddie on our team really has taken on HR technology as a service to our clients, in helping them look at technologies or comparing them or making sure they are implementing, you know, the best use of the technology they already have, which is a — we find to be very true. Sometimes clients will call us and ask us about looking at a new technology, and I know Kim’s first question anymore is, “Does the platform you already have had this technology that maybe you just haven’t implemented?” Many time is the case. But then Peggy, who leads our talent – recruiting, career coaching, and outplacement – they are, as a team, really explore new technologies for us internally to use as well.
That’s great. Yeah, I think it’s important to just keep your head up and, yeah, know what’s going on. Doesn’t mean you have to buy, but to stay aware. That’s great.
Right. Number four is change management. 82% of HR leaders say their managers are not equipped to lead change. This is not surprising, especially given the pace of change in the world today. And it isn’t just the management team who feels at a loss. Gartner reports that employees also feel disempowered and skeptical due to continuous change happening around them. For change management to be successful, we need to keep efforts up on delivering strong change, communications, step up the quality of training we do with staff on how to execute change. But in 2024, we also need to tackle fatigue management. Gartner cites three pillars of change fatigue management. Number one, identify when the staff is overwhelmed or exhibiting signs of fatigue. We can fix that by demonstrating empathy, encouraging open conversations, engaging staff and owning implementation plans, and prevent by involving employees earlier and also by building psychological safety into teams and normalizing proactive rest. These are good suggestions for everyday management even when we’re not experiencing change.
Absolutely. I think there was a study done by McKinsey now seven years ago that 70% of major change initiatives fail. And there’s so many reasons why, but I think that one thing we probably haven’t even talked about – at least I haven’t – is that change fatigue management as organizations have been facing changes rapidly, month after month, year after year. And you know what, it — people start to get, you know, they shut down. Yeah. So I think that it’s a really good concept and thinking about recognizing it, preventing it, fixing it, I just love.
So thank you for that. So the fifth and final priority that Chief People Leaders are really focused on in 2024, according to Gartner, is career management and internal mobility. 66% of HR leaders agree career paths within their organization are not compelling for many of their employees. Gartner suggests creating agile career pathing, which will be more attractive to the current and future workforce than traditional career pathing to a fixed destination. The idea here in an agile career path is to create roles that align to your employees’ larger goals, their interests, and their skills, rather than your preconceived org structure that employees need to fit into. So with your employee base, figure out what drives them, and then figure out how do we build roles around them, building roles based on experiences that will enable employees to keep developing while the work is getting done. Wow, that takes a whole ‘nother filter, doesn’t it?
Rather than what we’re used to.
Right. And you know, it can be much more complicated, right, but certainly more empowering to employees to see different opportunities or different alternatives in their career, as well.
And I can’t think of a better retention tool. What is it you want to do here? Let’s figure out a way to make you do that, to have you do that. Wow, that’s amazing. Not easy, but amazing. So JoDee, you know, we always try to ask a JoyPowered® question when we have a guest. Well, we don’t have a guest today, but I’m going to ask you, since we’re talking about 2024, what do you think might bring you joy in 2024 regarding your work?
Well, one of the things I love best about working in HR and working with teams is that manager development. And I think that that is and has been for years — it’s not a new issue that managers need to be trained and developed, but I hope that we can bring more awareness around this, that companies can invest in leadership training, and there’s so many different ways to do that. Right? It can be bringing in a trainer, like me, who teaches a group of people in your company, or it can be sending people out to different kinds of manager training to figure out, you know, maybe what’s one of the best ones that they can do. But I think really, if we think about manager training, and really good and effective manager training, that can hit almost every button that we talked about in those top five, right? Number one being management development, but that has a big impact on the number two item, organizational culture. And then it can also help with HR technology and change management, maybe indirectly on the… on the technology, but certainly, that can be a part of the change management as well, too. So I just love working with that population of people that I know needs this so badly.
Oh, man, I’m glad you’re out there doing it.
Susan, once again, we have a listener question. And our listener asks, “I think it’d be beneficial to hear about the limitations of HR folks providing the trainings. Are there training topics you have been asked to do that are outside of your wheelhouse? And where do you draw the line on what should be an HR training versus what should involve having an expert in another field present?”
I do think bringing in a subject matter expert on certain topics just makes great sense. If someone wants me to talk about a topic that I don’t feel 100% confident on, I will first research and see if I can bring myself up to speed on that topic. But if it’s something that I can’t get there on, I really would look for someone else to do it. I think it’s important if you’re really… if you’re going to take the time to train people, you want it to be absolutely accurate and the very best material possible by the very best presenter possible. I think of many times I was asked to train on things that are not in my wheelhouse, for example, short term disability, leaves of absences, emotional intelligence, and I’m sure probably a long list of other things. But I’ve every time I’ve said, you know, not my thing, but I know somebody who’s really good this, and then I tried to introduce the two of them. You too, JoDee?
Yes, absolutely. And I think, too, when you’re an HR leader in an organization, you typically have so many different responsibilities, so creating a training can be very time consuming, as opposed to bringing in an expert who maybe has really spent significant time researching and preparing and delivering and hearing questions on this topic on an ongoing basis. So training is one of my favorite things to do, but oh, many, many times I’ve brought in experts who I felt not only were they more of an expert on the topic, but that it was so important that our internal people hear from someone besides me and knowing that I brought an expert in to talk about this.
Yeah. And I think sometimes because cost is involved, the organization is going to look to you as the HR person to handle the topic. But I think you need to be upfront and say, if it’s worth our training staff on it, we want to make sure we provide the most up to date, accurate information, so I believe we need an outside expert to educate all of us on this topic. This is something we need to invest in.
Good luck listener. I hope it goes well for you. JoDee, it’s time for in the news. There was an NPR Morning Edition story by Allison Aubrey on November 14, 2023, entitled, “Can little actions bring big joy? Researchers found ‘micro-acts’ can boost well-being” that caught our attention as The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast. The story was about the Big Joy Project that found people who do daily micro-acts of joy experience a 25% increase in emotional well-being in the course of a week, emotional well-being defined as exhibited by increased feelings of hope, optimism, as well as moments of fun or silliness. The 70,000 participants from 200 countries who opted into the Big Joy Project agreed to try small happiness boosting activities, or micro-acts of joy, for seven consecutive days. Some examples of micro-acts are: Making a gratitude list or keeping a gratitude journal.
Engaging in an act of kindness to someone else.
Celebrating another person’s joy.
Love that. Engaging in self-reflection.
And positive reframing, that is, taking the time to identify the silver lining in a bad situation.
Ever since I heard this episode on NPR, I have put all those on a little post-it note on my screen. So it reminds me every day to try one of those, JoDee, and I have to tell you, I feel good after every one of them.
I love that.
I think all of us knows these things intuitively, but now there’s been a study validating how we can increase our joy. I want to work really hard to incorporate more micro-acts into my day. Just think if everyone in our workplaces were doing this or something similar, how JoyPowered® could your work culture be?
Yes, I love it. So thanks for listening today and make it a JoyPowered® day.
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