Hybrid work, DEI, mental health and recruitment are the biggest issues facing HR leaders, says director of people and culture
In October, Annie Rosencrans joined global people management platform Hibob as its director of people and culture in the United States.
It’s perhaps the most volatile time to assume an HR leadership position, considering the COVID-19 pandemic, which, in turn, has spawned the Great Resignation. For instance, 4.2 million Americans quit their jobs the month that Rosencrans started. The next month, a record 4.5 million left their positions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The pandemic has forced employees to re-evaluate what they want in life. As a result, they’re demanding more money, better working conditions and increased mobility.
“Employees in the last year have held their employers to much higher standards,” Rosencrans told HRD. “The expectation isn’t just to have a reliable paycheck, but that your company will be where you develop your career, grow rapidly, develop new skills, have a great social connection and the flexibility to work from home and leave work when you have personal needs. The work/life connection is so intertwined these days that there’s an expectation that your company will play a big role in supporting that balance.”
The flexibility to work from home has become table stakes when negotiating with prospects. After all, 89% of employees prefer a role with remote options, according to San Francisco-based PRO Unlimited, an integrated workforce management platform provider. Employees in the technology industry, such as those working in Silicon Valley, seem to desire the “WFH” lifestyle more than those in any other field. Roughly two-thirds of tech employees (66%) said they prefer working remotely full time, and 34% said they would only accept a full-time remote role. Just over 60% of network engineers and 47% of software engineers shared the same sentiment.
To accommodate employees, many companies have instituted hybrid working schedules. For example, Hibob workers come in the office twice a week: one day to collaborate with their team, and another of their choosing.
“It’s a lot harder to build a culture that cultivates connection with a remote staff, but we’re all experimenting,” Rosencrans says. “We’ve done virtual wellness and virtual social events, and I’m always looking for any technologies we can use to make meetings more interesting than your typical Zoom conversation. It just doesn’t beat the in-person interaction, though.”
In addition to fostering a sense of camaraderie while employees are out of the office, HR leaders are being tasked with developing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategies. In the wake of the racial protests throughout the country in 2020, companies have focused on amplifying their DEI efforts. Although Hibob hasn’t yet set firm metric-driven goals, Rosencrans says DEI is something leadership actively talks about.
“We know there are certain teams with a lack of diversity,” she says. “We’re engaging with vendors to improve the pipeline numbers, so we can find more diverse talent and attract them to our company.”
Responsible for onboarding rather than recruiting, Rosencrans primarily deals with inclusion and belonging. She run surveys every quarter on a variety of issues, asking employees if they feel all perspectives are valued and if they specifically feel represented within Hibob. Once the results are gathered and distributed, each team is given an action plan for addressing certain issues in the next quarter. “There are a lot of things I want to do that I’ve done at prior companies, such as creating opportunities to volunteer in the community to build a sense of belonging,” Rosencrans says.
Mental health isn’t explicitly asked about in the surveys, but Rosencrans is all too aware that it’s a hot topic. Addressing mental health was a significant part of her day-to-day responsibilities as HR director at New York City-based marketing agency Captivate, LLC. Now at Hibob, understanding employees’ concerns and making sure the company supports them has become a top priority in 2022.
“The best thing we can do right now is to be a reliable, caring, empathetic sounding board for employees,” Rosencrans says. “We’re making sure managers are communicating with employees, creating open forums for them to address concerns about stress and wellbeing. When they have personal challenges, they can come to us and share them. They know we’ll help them come up with a solution, whether that’s adjusting their hours or giving extra time off if needed.”