In the past few years, human resources has rightfully earned their seat at the table to better represent their employees. However, they’re still struggling with the same issues they’ve battled with for ages. HR requires more than a seat at the table. While technology has allowed HR to streamline tasks so they can focus on creating a better employee experience, many are putting more emphasis on traditional metrics rather than nurturing relationships and the potential of their workers.
It’s for this reason, among others, that HR has gotten the reputation that they’re only for the company and not the employee. When it comes to issues from lower level employees, they feel neglected and that HR sides with the most senior role due to their ranking within the organization. Therefore, employees at all levels believe HR isn’t truly on their side. They feel the fun frills of the workplace is a cover up for the real underlying issues boiling internally.
Topia, an HR tech company specializing in Global Talent Mobility and managing distributed workforces recently conducted a survey that revealed
- Only 17% of employees give their company an exceptional rating for employee experience
- 1 in 4 employees say they have to hide parts of who they are in order to fit in at work
- 58% of employees define a great employee experience as being empowered and trusted
- 48% say it’s about training, job rotation, or international assignments
- Only 19% said it’s about office space and perks
Companies invest nearly $720 million annually into making their culture seem cool and unique through fun perks and desirable incentives yet do little to actually make employees feel included. Gallup reported, in the 15-plus years of measuring and tracking employee engagement as a metric, there has been little change. In fact, the majority of employees aren’t engaged. When Gallup studied the change of employee engagement across a four year span, they noticed a mere 3% of change.
Here are three impactful ways HR can rebuild trust and improve the employee experience.
Stronger Focus On Financial Wellness
Finances are a major stressor in employees lives that has a significant impact on their workplace performance. PWC reported 58% of employees admit they’re stressed about their finances and 50% of stressed employees say finances have been a distraction at work. Prior to the pandemic, 78% of U.S. workers were already living paycheck to paycheck with more than a third of full-time workers having less than $1,000 saved to deal with unexpected expenses. For this reason, employees are less focused on saving for the future and more concerned with how to meet their current needs.
According to the “Death of the Traditional Pay Check” survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Kronos,
- 74% of employees would prefer to work for an employer that offers financial planning, budgeting and automated savings tools over one that does not
- 66% of employees wish they had early access to earned wages to simply cover bills, especially emergency expenses such as a car repair or unplanned medical care
- 57% of employees say they would work harder and stay longer at a company that offers on-demand pay
- Only 6% of employees are paid on-demand today, but 61% think they should not have to wait until their scheduled pay day to access their earned wages
- 70% say the 5-day/40-hour pay period is outdated
- 64% want their employer to offer early wage access, short-term loans or other financial assistance to help them cover unexpected expenses
Companies who have financial wellness programs help to reduce financial worry. Aside from having an on-demand pay program, a well-rounded financial wellness program helps employees develop a healthy relationship with their money. This is done through teaching employees how to manage their money, 401K education, credit building and repair, financial goal setting, financial crisis management (bankruptcy, dealing with collections, unemployment, etc…), student loan repayment and spending behaviors, to name a few.
Form A Trusted Partnership
Jane Garza, managing director of NOBL California, asserted that HR is already starting from a deficit of trust. TeamBlind surveyed 18 of the top tech companies and found 70% of their employees don’t trust their HR department. BambooHR conducted their own survey asking employees what they thought about their HR department at their company. They discovered, executives report a more positive experience compared to managers and employees who are less than satisfied.
It’s clear change is needed. While executives may be happy with how HR is performing, they only make up a piece of the organization. As such, it’s up to HR to re-strategize and redefine their role by assessing what’s working and what isn’t. The most beneficial way to create change across any organization is to include employees in the process. Whether HR realizes it or not, employees are the ones who are going to accept or reject the change.
Employees will be more receptive to forming a partnership with their HR department if HR owns up to things they’ve done incorrectly. Likewise, HR can seek feedback from their workers through discussions, surveys and one-on-one conversations. Jenna Carson, HR manager at Music Grotto, shared “HR’s job is to figure out what would really make employees more engaged and happy at work.” It’s up to them to do their due diligence by getting to know and asking their employees what they want and aligning employee goals with company goals.
Prioritizing Mental Health
Employers talk about wanting to empower their employees to bring their whole selves to work yet allow negative stereotypes around mental health to persist in their workplace. The negative connotation surrounding mental health is largely in part of exaggerated Hollywood movies. However, nearly one in five adults in the U.S. have a mental illness and 71% of adults reported experiencing a symptom of stress, feeling overwhelmed or anxious. Examples of mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), include ADHD, depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), schizophrenia, eating disorders and bipolar to name a few.
Employers who prioritize mental wellness, especially with the impact of the pandemic in mind, help bolster a more supportive workplace for their workers. In fact, 8% of employees fear that if their mental health issues are discovered by their employer they’ll lose their job. Dan Jolivet, clinicial psychologist and workplace possibilities practice consultant at The Standard, stated “building a workplace culture that bolsters behavioral health is crucial, especially during this time of uncertainty and added stress we’re all experiencing.”
What employees really want is to feel cared about and a part of the company in which they work. Building a strong foundation for a healthy employee experience includes better communication, more transparency, a flexible work environment, prioritizing mental and financial wellness, an inclusive culture and to be recognized for their efforts.