What are the implications for HR?
Last month, I discussed the findings of a report published by my company that explores the unhappiness – with only 22% reporting being happy at work – of those in the finance industry.
For those who missed it, here’s a summary of the findings:
– Transparency is not the culprit: Research on employee happiness shows a strong relationship between employee satisfaction and organisational transparency. But findings indicate that transparency is abundant in the finance industry.
– Employee appreciation and recognition are low: A large driver of workplace satisfaction is feeling valued for a job well done. Our data showed that this was lacking with only 20% feeling strongly valued at work.
– There are low levels of satisfaction with managers: 53% of employees are indifferent or dissatisfied with their managers. Their responses revealed three distinct problem areas: 1) poor communication, 2) limited mentorship, and 3) minimal time given to them by managers, all leading to general unhappiness.
– There are low levels of satisfaction with colleagues: Nearly 50% reported indifference or dissatisfaction toward their colleagues. Again, their responses revealed three distinct reasons for their dissatisfaction: 1) poor attitudes (complaining too much), 2) not being motivated or taking responsibility, and 3) not being qualified for their role.
This is a group that, presumably, has everything in their favour: high wages, comfortable job-security and challenging work. Yet despite all this, they’re reporting startlingly high rates of unhappiness at work.
I cannot think of a case which better exemplifies the importance of HR. After all, according to traditional indicators of workplace happiness – wages, job security, challenge-level of the work – there should be no problem. If so, why are they so unhappy? What are they lacking? In my mind, it is this: the ‘value-add’ which only HR can provide.
But let me be clear: this is not simply a call for increasing the number of HR staff. Rather, this is a call for a more forceful, vibrant HR. Not simply assigned the role of regulator, HR should be empowered to bolster the productivity of employees.
This new aim of HR comes down to one word: culture. Don’t let the simplicity fool you. In reality, there is nothing simple about culture. Maintaining a vibrant culture requires dedication and no small amount of work. In what follows, I’ll discuss what HR can and should do to manage their organisation’s culture.
Hire (and fire) with culture in mind
During the hiring process, companies typically look for two things: skills and experience. Don’t get me wrong, these are important. But they should not be the total measure of a candidate. A candidate’s personality and values are just as critical, if not more so, than their skills and experience.
Organisations which neglect these other criteria are likely to dishearten and decrease the productivity of their employees. That’s why during the hiring process, it is so critical to question candidates beyond their skills and experience: What motivates them? What are their values? Are they satisfied with meeting expectations or do they desire to exceed them?
These are just a few qualities which affect a candidate’s ‘fit’. When it comes to gauging ‘fit’, no one is quite as well-positioned as HR. Who, after all, better understands the contours of the office – what motivates the team, what drags them down – than HR?
Promote leaders based on leadership-potential
Traditionally, management has been viewed as the top rung in the career ladder. HR needs to change that. With 53% of finance workers reporting indifference or dissatisfaction toward their managers, the problem couldn’t be more evident: some people just are not management material.
When seeking to promote from within, more should be considered than a candidate’s success in his/her past roles. Does (s)he communicate well? Does (s)he command respect from the team? Does (s)he possess the necessary strength and confidence?
HR needs to assess these aspects. And when push comes to shove, they need to be a strong advocate for making leadership promotions based on them.
Of course not everything hinges on the moment of promotion. When an employee is promoted to a leadership position, that should not be the end of the matter. HR should continually assess the performance of the manager and help them to grow in their role.
Create a culture of recognition
Finally, HR ought to actively work toward creating a culture of recognition in the office. Part of this is accomplished by promoting the right people. A manager with good leadership skills will naturally be better at doling out recognition and praise where it is due.
HR, however, should be more proactive than this. In addition to helping managers recognise their employees, HR should create a culture of recognition throughout the office. After all, one’s colleagues are often in a better position to see one’s good work. When that’s the case, everything in the organisation’s culture should compel them towards recognising that good work.
To accomplish this, HR should establish channels of recognition. In some instances, designating a cork-board to pin notes on will suffice. When that doesn’t cut it, there are a number of tech tools designed to easily facilitate recognition. The chosen medium is less important than that the action is taken. Once the action is taken, it can have a huge effect. Recognition can be quite infectious. By taking the lead, HR can start a chain reaction which may snowball into a culture of recognition among employees.
Zachary Sisco is a Communications Associate at Seattle-based employee engagement survey company TINYpulse, www.tinypulse.com.
This article appeared in the August 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.
Click here for part 1.