Here’s what HR leaders need to do in 2018

Those at the top of the profession say these issues matter most for the year ahead

Here’s what HR leaders need to do in 2018
With less than three months left of 2017, HR leaders are intensely focused on the year ahead.

In a recent Morneau Shepell survey, industry leaders revealed where they’ll be targeting their energies in the year ahead.

Sixty-five percent of HR leaders said improving employee engagement was a top priority for the coming year, while 56 percent said they will also be focusing on attracting and retaining skilled talent.

Another 55 percent mentioned helping their organizations adapt better to ongoing change, and 47 percent said employees’ mental health was among their greatest concerns.

Paula Allen, vice president of research and integrative solutions at Morneau Shepell, spoke to HRD Canada about the key areas for HR in the year ahead, and how they’re intertwined.

Employee engagement:
“People are really understanding how deep the implications of an engaged workforce go, and a productive workforce,” Allen says.

“It’s people being engaged in terms of a positive view of the company, feeling that [the company] cares about their own wellbeing tends to be a main engagement indicator. Feeling that the culture itself is very supportive and problem-solving focused, as opposed to cut-throat or blaming and things of that sort.

“That’s actually a very close sister to the whole idea of an adaptive workforce, which we’re seeing a lot of indications of focus on right now.”

Coping with ongoing change:
An increasingly adaptive workforce arises from “a lot of change” going on across industries this year, Allen says.

“People used to have organizational change and business disruption and things of that sort every decade and every five years, now every two years, now on an ongoing basis. When you have that much change, it’s very stressful on people, it can impact engagement if people don’t have a good sense of support.”

Engagement plays into that, alongside teaching skills in resilience and managing disruption, Allen says.

Mental health:
“If you have a mentally unhealthy workplace, where there isn’t any respect, you feel insecure, denigrated, there’s no possibility of engagement,” Allen says.

“On the other hand, if you have people who feel empowered, feel supported, if you have investment in coping and resilience, if you have a problem-solving culture, which actually helps shape individuals’ behaviour and thinking to be more problem-solving focused, you’re actually optimizing people’s wellbeing so they can actually be much better off as a result of working for you than if they didn’t.”

Allen says any employer who really cares about engagement will also be focused on positive mental health in the year ahead.

Changes in HR:
HR’s shift to a more strategic role continues – and it’s going beyond the “business partner” concept, Allen says.

“The really leading indicator of what’s changed is the organizations that are in industries where there’s a fair bit of disruption, where the HR leader is actually the one who helps shape the business strategy, because no business strategy can actually go forward without a focus on what the shape of the workforce looks like, how you invest in people, how you optimize people.

“Having that HR leadership at the forefront of how the business needs to go about managing change, what they do and how they execute, as opposed to just making sure that change gets managed well, is where we’re seeing most of the developments.”

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