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How to be smart about HR's biggest challenges

-Reading time: 4 Minutes

After a long period of damage control, it’s time to focus back on growth. And that inspires many companies to (re)connect with their talent. Some smart efforts, based on positive emotions, can already do wonders to make a meaningful impact on employees and restore their zest for work. Meanwhile, you tackle most of the top 10 HR challenges for 2022 and beyond.

HR departments have long lived by a valuable but rather colourless mandate that centred around cost-efficient measures, legal compliance and productivity. This has not only led to process fatigue, but also unintentionally compromised the human touch of HR, just when people needed the most support. To illustrate, many top 10 HR challenges for the future are more than ever about putting talent first.

How we’ve got here: fear and anxiety at work

A recent employee survey by SD Worx shows that 18.9% of the workforce is highly engaged, 23.5% is disengaged and 57.6% sit somewhere in between – not an excellent result.

One of the main reasons is that some companies still aim for maximum control, expressed in rigid and narrow objectives and roles. They routinise processes to manage complexity and look for predictability along the way. Other companies, driven by a changing world, already turned the page of control long ago and went full force into agile ways of working. Flexibility was suddenly the holy grail. And while agility certainly proved to be useful during the pandemic, it also has its downsides: people lose sight of the bigger picture and struggle to cope with the pace of things.

Both types of working environment make people feel flat. They perform their jobs head down and do what is being asked, because – more often than not – rewards also depend on it. Fear and anxiety take over and kill all potential for initiative and new ideas.

Where we should head: sparking creativity

You’ve probably read it a zillion times: change has become the only constant. In other words, predictability is out the window. An approach aimed at maximum control will therefore no longer work, but also the other extreme could take its toll.

This forces companies to rethink their (talent) strategy, but it also offers opportunities. An interesting course of action to re-install a real-life human feel at work and to increase organisational agility as well as employee engagement is based on triggering people’s biological seeking systems, according to Dan Cable, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School. Companies need to stimulate the part of the human brain that craves exploration and learning.

This concept shifts the emotional balance from fear and anxiety to positive feelings, such as curiosity, enthusiasm and excitement. Employees turn into better versions of themselves if they have the freedom to experiment and push boundaries. Purpose also plays an important role. Employers should help employees to (re)discover the meaning that’s buried under all their day-to-day tasks.

A win-win situation

Let’s put the theory into practice. One of the main tasks for business leaders in appealing to an employee’s seeking system is to figure out which parts of their job make them thrive. The goal is to craft roles towards strengths and the things people care most about. What person A considers tedious might trigger person B’s seeking system, if you get the gist. Mind you, this role moulding is not done overnight, but step by step.

This way of working feels better for humans and is also better for the organisation itself, since it leads to more creativity and innovation. But there’s more, it also allows you to tackle some of the biggest HR challenges for 2022.

    Fostering self-expression, purpose and serious play helps ...

    ... to create a more resilient workforce (challenge 1).

    ... to make employees happier and more engaged at work (challenge 2).

    ... to turn employees into ambassadors for new candidates (challenge 3).

    ... to design more sustainable roles and careers in your organisation (challenge 4).

    ... to detect, deploy and cultivate people’s strengths and capabilities (challenge 5).

      Looking for more innovative insights on the top HR challenges for 2022 and beyond?

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