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How HR leaders can create a great place to work

David Williams, CEO & Founder - Impact

How HR leaders can create a great place to work

It’s no secret that happy and fulfilled workers are likely to be the most productive, and Covid-19 has shone a bright and immediate light on what workers hold dear, from being treated with autonomy and trust, to flexible working patterns that recognise the lives they have outside of their working hours, to working for companies that place their safety and welfare above shareholders and profits.

So it is essential that, even during times of crisis, leadership teams are regularly considering and reviewing how to create an organisation worth working for, offering a culture of inclusivity which enables all to thrive. Failure to do so is a sure-fire route to losing the war on talent – whether it be in terms of attracting, or retaining, the best the industry has to offer.

Despite talent having never been more influential over the success or failure of an organisation, countless organisations are failing to take account of the importance of creating a dynamic, two-way, mutually beneficial and inspiring approach to team working, instead following much outdated and counterproductive approaches which create toxic environments for staff.

There is no place in the modern thriving workplace for a one-directional, command and control style approach to leadership, and indeed the wider workplace, anymore. It’s an outdated, uninspiring model and workers rightly expect, and deserve, more. Yet, so many organisations deliberately, or inadvertently, still continue to hold on to this way of working which is the organisational equivalent of keeping employees and the business alike in a vice like grip, unable to move or grow.

This also extends to talent acquisition – how many organisations bang the drum about equality and diversity, but ultimately fall far short of the mark when it comes to taking steps to actively break down the barriers that prevent building a workforce that is truly inclusive? Here are the areas HR leaders need to be focusing on if they want to build an engaging and dynamic organisation that employees are proud to work for…

Cultivating a values-driven culture – Great places to work need a leadership team that is committed to hearing every voice, inspiring people to speak up and creating the space in which they can collectively influence where the organisation is. This requires employees who are good value matches to your business but that doesn’t mean look for people who are the same. The most effective and successful organisations look for people who can add something they don’t already have.

Future-focused people development – People development and business development go hand in hand. Each individual in the organisation should feel that they have the opportunity to express themselves authentically, pursue their own goals in the context of work and feel truly fulfilled.

Endorsing autonomy – Great leaders make sure that their people are clear about where the handrails are, that they know what’s expected of them but also that they have large scope for freedom, creativity and innovation. HR needs to lead from the top here – encouraging understanding and action amongst other senior leaders – to remove barriers and to cultivate an environment in which people can be their best selves, and in which they can embark on an ongoing process of positive change and development.

Organisation wide feedback culture – People naturally shy away from this but it’s important to see feedback as a natural and ongoing process, not reserved for an overly formal annual personal development review – just as in life we should strive to learn from all experiences. HR can lead this from the top down, driving awareness and understanding of the benefits to be gleaned by all, underpinned with organisationally led and devised policies to enable its implementation.

Collaborative working – Silos are the bane of every organisation that is failing to reach its potential, they help no one. By creating dynamic, cross-functional, cross-hierarchical and cross-location project teams, we can break down barriers and liberate brilliance. Great leaders recognise this and take strategic action to activate such ways of working.

Giving back to the community – It is important to give your people opportunities to feel first-hand that their organisation is one worth working for. Effective leaders need to be scanning the horizon for opportunities that will help the organisation to help others, and in so doing, will help to create opportunities internally.

Inspiring others – It’s no good being a great place to work if you’re not using that influence to help other organisations become better, and to become organisations worth working for in turn. Organisations doing great things need to shine a light on the work they are doing and by doing so they will become a beacon of good practice that others can learn from – this sets the great organisations apart from the mediocre and will create a virtuous circle of driving talent to your business, keeping yours ahead of the pack.

Great leaders ultimately understand that all organisations are just groups of people working in service of other groups of people, and they therefore recognise the need to prioritise their people’s wellbeing, passions, creativity and development above all else. The result of this people-first approach is success, a thriving, colourful workplace culture where people feel they belong, resilience, an engaged and happy workforce, and an organisation that is truly worth working for.


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