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Stewards of humanity
Print – Issue 172 | Article of the Week

Marcus Wylie
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Each month we will be sharing four, carefully-chosen articles from the Latest Issue of our flagship publication ‘theHRDIRECTOR’ which exemplify the high standards we strive to achieve. We hope you find this in-depth article of interest and decide to become one of our valued Subscribers.


HR and L&D functions sit side-by-side within the organisational structures they operate within – often even literally sitting side-by-side – without realising that their respective expertise can support the other’s common pain points – particularly when it comes to optimising employee experience. If organisations enable L&D functions to work as a true ally of HR, ensuring people development is at the heart of organisational strategy, they can transform outcomes.

Article by Marcus Wylie, Head of People Engagement – Insights

There is simply too much to lose when organisations have the employee experience wrong – high employee turnover, inefficiencies and lost financial opportunities – and too much to gain when the employee experience is right – thriving workplace culture, increased productivity and business growth. One of the main reasons HR and L&D teams should partner more closely to improve the employee experience is that learning opportunities can unlock underlying organisational challenges. For example, when the employee experience is poor, HR teams will see this evidenced through familiar avenues, like; low retention rates, substandard engagement data and poor exit interview feedback, amongst many others. In these cases, the L&D team is uniquely poised to intercept and improve the disappointment through programmes of activity that make their workforce feel supported and invested in, namely in training, coaching and role development initiatives. L&D’s involvement in improving the employee experience comes down to a simple line of thinking – learning opportunities make people feel invested in, and when people feel invested in and fully equipped to do their jobs, they understand how their role supports the company’s objectives and are motivated to play their part in helping the organisation achieve its goals.

 “The challenge is to create an employee experience which fits into a future we don’t yet fully understand. It can be easy to forget the ‘human’ and focus solely on the ‘resources’ amidst a sea of day-to-day demands and targets. But we must stay supremely focused on our shared humanity” 

According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report, 93 percent of employees would stay longer if the organisation invested in their careers. The reality is, development is no longer an optional extra, it’s expected by today’s talent, as a key element of employee experience, if they are to stay at that organisation. The holistic employee experience stretches well beyond a list of workplace perks. In order to create an environment where people truly want to bring their best to work every day, organisations have to put people development at the core of their operations. According to research by Oxford Economics and Unum, the average cost of turnover per employee is approximately £30,000. This staggering figure means that if you replace three employees in one year, the cost of employee turnover will be edging close to £100,000. With that in mind, no business can afford not to see L&D as one of its most crucial function. Creativity, initiative, and commitment are difficult to show within an HR strategy or balance sheet, but they’re among the most critical components, and they all reside within the workforce. Because of this, developing your people can’t be an add-on to the employee experience, just as L&D can’t be an add-on to the HR function. If you truly want to propel your business forward, it’s people development that will get you ahead. 

Investment in L&D is just as strategic a decision as all others. Similarly, a healthy organisational culture and positive employee experience isn’t just a feel-good concept, but a key to unlocking financial success. In The Advantage, author Patrick Lencioni wrote: “The financial cost of having an unhealthy organisation is undeniable; “wasted resources and time, decreased productivity, increased employee turnover, and customer attrition”. We must never underestimate what is possible when a professional finds a place where they can be themselves, a role where they excel in an organisation that values their contribution. Or conversely, what might the organisational consequences be if an employee finds themselves unable to tick any of these boxes? According to Gallup: “Employees used to expect to work for a boss – now they’re looking for a coach”. Professionals want to feel invested in, and how much they are learning and being coached can determine how long they choose to stay with a company. Long gone are the days that professionals stick with one job or company for the majority of their career – the modern workforce is calling for organisations to distinguish themselves as employers of choice. While there are many crucial facets to growing a business, nothing would be possible without the right people. In HR, it can be easy to forget the ‘human’ and focus solely on the ‘resources’ amidst a sea of day-to-day demands and targets, but we must stay supremely focused on our shared humanity, now more than ever. With technology in the driver’s seat and the organic churn of new digital natives navigating a new course, there will be very little of the future workplace that will be easily identifiable in a few years’ time. 

It’s not just employee expectation that is changing; it is the very basis of what constitutes the definition of an employee and an employer. On that fundament, there are key elements of the proposition and the contract, both psychological and physical, that need to be addressed urgently, if organisations want to attract and retain the best talent. In this unknown future, remaining human, or rediscovering our base humanity, is absolutely vital for successful businesses. With so much of work being taken over by automation, we are left with an opportunity to reinvent the employee experience through offering re-focused L&D opportunities that help people develop in the ways that really matter, being human. Though many facets of how we work have changed, with the introduction of new digital practices, the foundations of what makes a great leader – or a fantastic team member – never change, which can be used to drive forward the employee experience. It is especially in these times that HR and L&D functions play a large role in providing employees with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in an ever-changing environment. 

The challenge is to create an employee experience which fits into a future we don’t yet fully understand. It can be easy to forget the ‘human’ and focus solely on the ‘resources’ amidst a sea of day-to-day demands and targets. But we must stay supremely focused on our shared humanity, now more than ever before. One of the key ways businesses can do this is to reframe L&D opportunities to focus on those which raise awareness of an individual’s strengths, skills and inter-personal preferences. This heightened understanding then enables individuals to adapt to the circumstances and environments they find themselves in, with a keen ability to be resilient in the face of uncertainty. In our company, we talk about self-awareness through the use of colour – a non-judgemental language for teams to talk about their personal preferences, underpinned by Jungian psychology principles. The language provides a way to cut through the complexity of why we behave the way we do and enables learners to describe their personalities in accordance with their preferences, aligned with three main spectrums; introversion/extraversion, thinking/feeling, sensation/intuition.  Recognising and appreciating differences also allows managers to more quickly identify competency gaps in themselves and their teams which, in turn, promotes the skill development initiatives required to fill those gaps. This encourages employees to bring their “whole selves” to work.

Unlocking human potential and developing great people to become even better, must be the most worthwhile achievement known to HR. While it is easy to feel dispirited when talking about a future none of us can possibly predict, enabling improved employee experiences can be realised when organisations make people development a strategic imperative and encourage HR and L&D functions to lean on one another’s expertise. Even in uncertainty, I organisations will always find the right answers and the right people around them and are dedicated to listening to and learning, themselves. The benefits of collaborative working between the HR and L&D functions are so clear. Organisations can make a conscious choice to totally rethink the development of their employees, reframing development programmes as an experience that supports employees to truly develop as people and professionals. Ultimately, enabling growth opportunities within the employee experience enables growth opportunities for the business as a whole. After all, it’s people that come up with the ideas, processes and insight that create real business value.

www.insights.com


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