Is your HR team resourced and ready for 2024?

Employment law specialist provides tips for HR on psychosocial risks, hiring, wellbeing and AI developments

Is your HR team resourced and ready for 2024?

As we head into 2024, it’s more important than ever for organisations to equip HR and people leaders with capability and capacity, says one employment law specialist.

However, says Andrea Twaddle, director at DTI Lawyers, some businesses are finding it hard to fully resource HR teams.

“We’re still in relatively uncertain economic times so businesses are raising concerns about rising costs, staffing and inflation,” says Twaddle.

“Those pressures play out in terms of critical discussions with staff around remuneration, and performance. So there's a real need for a focus for people leaders on capability and competence so they can engage with employees consistently with their good faith obligations.”

Movement in HR roles

This comes at a time of strong competition in the employment market for talent, she notes, especially with changes in the employment landscape for HR.

“There is quite a bit of movement in HR roles and in a tight economic market, there’s a risk that HR capability would become a headcount that gets lost with the person or vacancy not being replaced.

“You wouldn't want to see that happening in business at a time where actually investing in people is going to be really important to help them through this next phase of economic change as market confidence returns, things settle following the election and organisations start putting in place plans they may have held for a while.”

Vacancies in HR have been across the board, Twaddle says. “There does seem to have been senior HR personnel moving between different sectors, and vacancies in those really critical functional HR roles can be a huge risk to businesses.”

Organisations should be especially mindful of succession planning, she says.

“That means building capability development with redundancy in your system so that if a person leaves, someone else is going to be able to fulfill those duties.”

HR: carriers of others’ wellbeing

At a time when HR has been shouldering a significant burden of stresses due to the pandemic and post-Covid workplace adaptations, it’s also important to acknowledge the strains already experienced in the role.

“They are the people that are the carriers of others’ wellbeing,” says Twaddle. “Sometimes, that gets lost in HR looking out for everyone else, but we need to consider them too. They bring support so that others can go to work within a safe environment.

“In this environment where we know people get burnt out, HR is just as much at risk of that as anyone else. I recommend looking at those exact same workplace metrics for HR teams as you would others, and then extending that to your key managers within the business and have a look at those same metrics for them.”

Twaddle advises considering Te Whare Tapa Whā - the Māori health and wellbeing model -which values the interconnected areas of wellbeing and which is also in the Consultation Draft WorkSafe Guidelines for managing healthy work, she says.

“It is helpful when somebody feels they're not the only person carrying the responsibility, so building that ability for redundancy within your system means somebody else has always got the capability to either support or lead a piece of work.” 

Workplace culture and psychosocial risks

This focus on what a healthy workplace looks like will be critical in the coming months, she says.

“More businesses are looking to achieve a healthy workplace culture and that’s really positive. It requires a genuine engagement in what psychosocial risk assessment looks like, appropriate steps to manage risks, and making sure employees are aware of how any concerns may be raised and will be responded to.

“Where there's a disconnect between employees’ experience and what the workplace is saying it’s doing remains at the heart of many employment relationship problems.”

HR pivotal in navigating AI developments

As organisations navigate the leap in capabilities of AI through to coming months, HR has a key role to play in its appropriate adoption, says Twaddle.

“Taking advantage of the positive opportunity it creates for productivity while also managing risks is vital,” she says. “This includes IP and cyber security protections.”

Twaddle notes the discussion is ongoing regarding who should be captured and protected within this space through New Zealand's employment law.

“In an organisation deciding how to take the lead in AI in a way that will benefit, rather than jeopardise operations, it’s vital employers are proactive,” she says.

Achieving workplaces with engagement and diversity

“There is a real opportunity for HR to have leadership in that space, bringing together the different parts of an organisation, including IT and key business managers to look at what tools might be effective and conduct privacy impact assessments to understand what those risks might look like. I think HR has a really good overview of who might be appropriate to get involved.”

Getting ahead of these key issues will help an organization to position itself well for the coming year, says Twaddle.

“If we can keep looking forward and put plans in place to equip ourselves well for those challenges then we've got far more likelihood of being able to achieve real goals and create a workplace that people want to engage in, where there's diversity, where people actually want to invest their time and their skills. These proactive steps help to develop a really healthy workplace. It's certainly an interesting time!”

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