Why People Focused HR Leadership Is More Important Than Ever


The last few months have been the challenge of a lifetime for most, if not all of the HR Professionals that I know, and, I know they have also taken their toll on many.  And yet, amongst the increased workload, the overnight changes, the C (Covid-19) word and the F word (Furlough) that have become acceptable terms to use, and the flexible working, the last few months have created an incredibly exciting opportunity for HR Professionals all over the world.

That said, opportunities are only great if we choose to take them, and I believe the future of work is absolutely something that HR leaders need to be grabbing with both hands and shaping the future to change the world of work. For some, this will mean a change to the way they work, a change to the way they lead and a change to the way the engage and influence stakeholders.

Far too many HR leaders find themselves continuously hitting their heads against a brick wall when it comes to trying to move forward the People agenda effectively and with some leaders still referring to HR as pink, fluffy, or soft it shows just how far some HR leaders still have to go.  And yet, more and more leaders value HR and the value that HR add to the people and the organisation.

Since lockdown, many non-HR professionals and leaders appear to feel they are now experts in all things people.  Furlough? Easy.  Redundancy? Just talk to them.  Flexible working? Let’s just close all of our offices and let everyone work from home.

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My hope is that HR have absolutely proved their worth over the last few months, if not, perhaps now is the time to start looking elsewhere.  But it’s also an opportunity to show, once and for all, that we can drive real change.  And this starts with speaking to your people about what works for them and using this feedback to shape the workplace of the future.  One-size-fits-all approaches have never fitted, and they never will, so it’s time to create something that works for everyone.

Let’s be honest, if our people have managed to work from home, or maintain whatever ‘normal’ has been during this time, whilst juggling kids, relatives, cramped living conditions, eating whatever they can get their hands on at the shop and spending minimal amounts of time outside, then when some level of normality resumes, working from anywhere outside of the office should be a breeze.

Research continues to demonstrate that four day working weeks are the best way to be productive, perhaps now is the time to make it work for you. Outcomes instead of hours worked are beneficial for people and organisations, perhaps give this a go instead of any fixed hours.

If you had a blank sheet of paper, and you could create the ideal solutions for your company – what would it be and why?  And how can you actually make this happen?

And when you’ve created the ideal solution, take some real time to shape what effective HR will look like in the long term.

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  • Who are we?
  • What are we here to achieve?
  • What do our customers want from us?
  • What do our customers need from us?
  • How can we ensure we continue to add value?

If we allow the old, to creep into the now, we risk going backwards.  The organisations that have put their people at the heart of all they do during lockdown, will be the ones to thrive in the future.  The organisations that continue to put their people first now we are moving to and through the next phase, will be the companies to thrive in the future.  And HR can deliver this.

Now is the time to show up, speak up and drive change.  Now is the time to ask leaders what they want and why.  Now is the time to ask your people what they want and why.  We don’t need long, boring and overcomplicated policies and procedures.  We don’t need working from home policies, do you have a working from the office policy?  We don’t need to be more strict than we were before, we need to allow our people to work more autonomously.  We don’t need more micro-managing, we need more of a coaching approach. We don’t need managers and leaders coming up with random ways to manage people more effectively, we need effective leadership and management.  We don’t need to ditch training, we need to make training work for our people.  We need to put our people first, all of our people, and in doing so, this needs a new style of HR leadership for the many. 

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HR leadership that burns the handbook, creates flex, adds value, puts people over policy and kindness over rules.

We need heart led people leaders now more than ever if we are going to change the world of work and HR leaders can, if they choose to, lead by example in making this happen.

We need HR leaders to put the people first, and this is likely to take courage, change and some big deep breaths to make it happen.

Guest Author : Kelly

 Kelly is an Executive Coach and Global Empowerment Coach for Leaders and HR Professionals at kellyswingler.com. She leads and coaches with an open heart, an open mind and has the courage to challenge the status quo and do things differently so that we can all love our roles, find balance in our lives and so that we can all change the world of work for the better.

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