Our culture sessions are all about bringing people together to share ideas, explore issues and make new connections.
This time around we were fortunate to be joined by guest speakers Liz Bonelli (Arsenal), Liz Jeffery (Sony Music Group) and Becky Pullen (AstraZeneca) to share their thoughts and experiences around how HR professionals can re-energise and re-connect their people. As you can imagine, there was no shortage of interesting conversation!
For those who couldn’t make it we’ve pulled together some of the big themes that emerged during the session:
It will be no surprise to anyone that the solution to hybrid working isn’t simple (sorry). After being catapulted into the mainstream by COVID, many in the workforce cherish the new-found autonomy, flexibility and efficiency that hybrid working provides – and let’s face it, being able to put on a load of washing during your lunch break is game-changing.
But this isn’t always the case for everyone; junior employees are feeling the sting of less informal interactions - both socially and professionally – as they look to grow their careers.
Recently, there has been a trend from senior leadership to push for office-based working, looping back to the familiar routine from before the lockdown – and with the balance of power shifting away from talent and back towards the employers, this mandate has been easier for HR professionals to implement.
But there is a watch out – the previous 9 am to 5 pm office regimen didn’t work for many, and if businesses are truly committed to being inclusive, they will need to genuinely maintain some level of flexibility (rather than push a one-size-fits-all approach).
The purpose of purpose
As we move into tougher economic times, more and more businesses are relying on their workforce to pull them through, but at the same time, employees are waking up to the fact that the social contract isn’t what it once was.
Gone are the days where, if you worked hard, you would be rewarded with a secure job, a good wage (enough to afford a home), and upward career progression – put simply, the deal for workers isn’t what it once was.
As a result, people are looking for fulfilment elsewhere, be it in their personal lives (note: the increasing importance being placed on work-life balance) or in terms of finding fulfilment through purpose.
Purpose as a means of motivation is nothing new, but interestingly, it’s the way people are defining purpose that is shifting.People are no longer looking to their employers to connect their work to a big, often lofty, societal need – in fact; they’ve lost faith in the idea that business will actually change the world for the better.
That is not to say that purpose is less important; in fact, it is more vital than it ever was. However, people are looking for a purpose that is a little less worthy and a little easier to grasp. Something that shows a more realistic path to impact by connecting their work to what the business actually provides. At the end of the day, it all boils down to ‘Why should I give my time to you over my family?’ and ‘What am I really achieving here?’.
Openness and empathy are now table stakes.
One of the great things to come out of COVID was that it opened the door to talking about mental health – and for the first time in history, almost everyone was experiencing similar struggles at the same time – and as a result, it helped to normalise and destigmatise mental health discussions in the workplace.
As we move forward and put COVID firmly in our rearview, the impacts of this are still being felt. People now expect their workplaces to have solid support for mental health and wellbeing initiatives in place.
And increasingly, leaders are expected to be more empathetic, flexible and adaptable. In the past, having an emotionally intelligent leader was a bonus; now, these soft skills are table stakes, and the role of leaders in the workplace is expanding.
In a seemingly relentless global context, people are emotionally exhausted and burning out from processing a lot of things that are not necessarily work-related, but have an impact on their performance.
In response, employees and businesses are now looking for leaders to be on the ground to respond and provide support for employees who are struggling.
While this may come naturally to some, for other leaders, it’s a key development area businesses must focus on. Equally, it is important to ensure the leaders have the time, space and resources to provide the appropriate support and are not being squeezed into burnout themselves.
For the first time in history, we have five generations in the workplace, all with very different needs and expectations that businesses must balance.
As almost tradition dictates, younger generations are pushing for improvements to the way we work. Today’s Gen-Zs are more individualistic and have strong boundaries, which they protect through (logically) asking the question ‘Why?’.
From company comms to policies and procedures, they want to understand the rationale behind something and what the benefit is for them - most importantly, they want to know what they’ll learn, how they can be seen and how they can make an impact.
This can, at times, spark tension with the previous generations, for whom asking ‘why?’ was a lot harder.But while it would be easy to complain and call Gen Z ‘soft’, ‘lazy’ and ‘selfish’ (as many do) – the better way (and correct way) to think about it is to recognise their strength is challenging our leaders to be better for us all.
It was a truly fascinating conversation, and this summary only scratches the surface, but one thing’s for sure — the people function, and its leaders have never been more vital to helping businesses survive and thrive in these turbulent times…
At People Made, we advise businesses at all stages of growth to help define their culture, values and purpose.