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Challenging convention in the face of change

Claire-Jayne Green
businesses

The workplace is changing rapidly. In fact, the pace of change is so fast that organisations are having to adapt many of their traditional processes and approaches to keep up in a highly competitive and connected world. Claire-Jayne Green, Group Chief People Officer – Servest.

Regardless of the seismic shifts in this exciting industry of ours, recruitment, employee engagement and approaches to leadership will remain the perennial challenge for organisations of the future. As HR leaders, it’s up to us to devise new methods for uncovering and retaining talent; and a big part of this includes ethical leadership strategies that will promote empathy and understanding between teams and divisions.

It’s unlikely that anyone would ever dispute that all human beings deserve the same rights and respect – regardless of whether they’re male, female, black, white, heterosexual, homosexual, or whether they don’t fall into any predetermined social constructs or categories. Regardless, gender equality is unfortunately still a mere spec on the horizon. According to the latest Grant Thornton report, only 24 percent of senior roles across the world were held by women in 2016 – and the UK fares worse than the global average, sitting at a rather pathetic 21 percent. Put simply, 1 in 5 decision makers are female. If that wasn’t bad enough, the gender pay gap remains wider than many would consider acceptable.

When applied to the workforce, diversity refers to the mix of people, and inclusion is the way everyone’s treated. Organisations that invest in both diversity and inclusion are likely to have more engaged, motivated, happy and mentally healthy employees, which can lead to reduced absenteeism and improved productivity – not to mention a more supportive, caring and enjoyable work environment.

But if it were as easy as saying ‘right, that makes sense, let’s be diverse and inclusive!”, then we wouldn’t be in the state we’re in currently. We’re all human beings and part of being human means we naturally gravitate towards those that we share things in common. This innate tendency can sometimes trigger involuntary or unconscious bias – meaning that the physical appearance of an individual, or the way they come across, can inadvertently influence everything from recruitment decisions to management approaches. It is natural to seek a connection with others but employers must look beyond the commonalities and mitigate unconscious bias by simply being more aware of the pitfalls and by taking baby steps to modify behaviour when necessary.

An organisation can only hope to achieve gender parity by challenging conventional approaches to recruitment, retention and management. We have to encourage our colleagues to be open and to reflect on personal biases. We have to inspire our peers to have a look around to see if they’ve inadvertently overlooked someone’s potential. To drive an inclusive culture, we have to become the spokesperson for inclusion. It doesn’t mean we have to know all the answers; it just means we need to care about exploring the questions.

Organisations have slowly reached the conclusion that adhering to the same, archaic process isn’t always the best way to engage the current and the future workforce. At Servest, we consider ourselves to be champions of innovation, and we strive to break with convention in order to better the employee experience. In addition to ensuring diversity and inclusion is on the agenda, we’ve also ditched appraisals in exchange for “continuous conversations”; and for our apprenticeship recruitment drives, CV submissions are banned to encourage candidates to think more creatively about their application. Next, we’re thinking of moving away from a set working hours’ contract to an output model.

According to the Global Human Capital Trends 2015 report, 87 percent of organisations claim their biggest challenge is ‘culture and engagement’. Gallup’s research suggests that only 13 percent of employees are engaged at work, 63 percent are not engaged, and 24 percent are actively disengaged. So there’s a lot of work to do on this front… but being flexible and adaptable in the face of change is the first step to a more engaged workforce.

When people are at the heart of your business, challenging conventional approaches and systems is the only real way to continually innovate and inspire. HRs not only have to be ethical advocates and drivers of change, but that they also have the power to lead and challenge the status quo. And it’s only by doing that, that we can compete in the war for talent. This is an exciting time to work in the people profession. Organisations are no longer obsessed by policies, regimented systems or with hitting people with their HR sticks! This means that the forward-thinking organisations, that aren’t afraid of change, can start being a lot more creative in the way that they approach talent attraction, retention and engagement.

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