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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability

4 Top Leadership Trends for HR Managers in 2017

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What’s the biggest threat to building an engaged workforce in 2017? A recent study concludes: employee burnout.

The study, by Kronos Incorporated and Future Workplace, found that 95 percent of human resource executives think that burnout is what stands in the way of employee retention. What’s worse, they don’t think that a solution will be found in the near future.

HR managers point to plenty of reasons for employee burnout. Unfair compensation, unreasonable workloads and too much overtime or after-hours work are the three biggest causes. But they agree that a negative workplace culture is another big factor in burnout.

I would argue that culture is at the root of all other challenges in the workplace. It’s the foundation of policies, practices and perspectives that spell the difference between employee engagement and employees who are job hunting. And one of the most effective steps that leaders can take to build stronger work cultures is to put social impact squarely at the center of your corporate values.

Looking towards the year ahead, business leaders have their work cut out for them when it comes to increasing employee engagement. As you cultivate a more positive work culture, here are four top leadership trends in HR that some experts are forecasting for 2017:

1.  The employee experience will be a big focus for 2017

Mercer predicts that 90% of employers anticipate more competition for talent, especially in India, North America, and Asia. So it’s not surprising that Kronos reports that organizations will expand their focus from the customer experience alone to the one felt by their workforces, driven by the need to improve employee recruitment, engagement and retention, and to make work more professionally fulfilling. Which perks and benefits matter most to employees, and how can these be utilized to avoid employee burnout?

One study found that 83% of HR leaders said "employee experience" is either important or very important to their organization’s success. Companies like GE now actually have people whose job title is Head of Employee Experience. And HR leaders in many organizations are beginning to connect with heads of Real Estate, IT, Marketing, Internal Communications, and Global Citizenship to create a compelling life for employees within their companies.

But even small companies can create a big impact for employees by focusing on one area they deeply care about: giving back. One of the benefits that we know matters a great deal to employees, especially Millennials, is a perk-rich employee and giving volunteer program. If you’ve got a program in place, make sure it’s laden with goodies like dollars for doers, matching gifts, paid time off to volunteer, and an online platform that fosters a social, mobile, interactive and transparent volunteer experience.  

2.  Companies will make the workplace more digital for employees

As noted by Future Workplace advisor Jeanne Meister, sixty-seven percent of CEOs think that their company is a “technology company,” according to a survey by Fortune. And according to Forrester, 47% percent of executives surveyed believe that by 2020, digital will have an impact on more than half their sales. HR leaders are following this inclination, bringing more technology and digital experiences to their employees.

“Applying a consumer and digital lens is much more than just incorporating new solutions in HR,” Meister notes. “Being employee-centered and digital is about having a new mindset...Above all, it requires a belief in the power of leveraging the latest consumer technologies inside HR.”

You can’t have the mindset of an innovative technology company and then bring an analog volunteer and giving experience to your employees. Your company’s interest and efforts in creating a culture of giving back needs to be matched by an investment in the same kind of digital experience that you bring to the rest of your business. Without this, employees can smell “lip service” a mile away and will fast lose interest in participating.

3. Companies will focus on the development of teams, not just individuals

Another observation from Meister is that team development will take on a higher importance in 2017. As Ashley Goodall, Senior Vice President of Leadership and Team Intelligence at Cisco, told Meister, “One of the big misses in HR has been our nearly exclusive focus on individual development and performance. At Cisco, we noted great accomplishments are delivered through teams, not just through individuals working alone. This led to our insight that an individual employee’s experience is really their team experience and this is different for everyone.”

Volunteering and giving programs are particularly well-suited to foster team dynamics and development. Leading companies understand that these programs are a rich minefield for team, leadership and skills development, at a fraction of the cost that traditional employee development programs incur. And all while serving the large purpose of breeding meaningful corporate cultures that fuel employees’ passions and sense of fulfillment.

4. Companies will get creative with employee impact

Employees expect much more from their companies than a “done in a day.” According to Cone Communications, sabbaticals were all the rage in 2016 - experiences where employees can see, feel and touch impact activities outside of the office. “In an effort to attract and retain Millennial talent,” Cone Communication reports, “Citigroup has created a new immersive service experience – allowing junior bankers to work on a four-week microfinance project in Kenya. In a similar move, boutique investment bank Moelis & Co. is now offering four weeks paid sabbatical for employees to pursue a passion area after five years with the company.”

HR and CSR leaders need to apply a shot of creativity to their programs and consider how to take their impact efforts to the next level. Leading in business is increasingly associated with leading in social change; companies need to convince top talent as well as other stakeholders that they have the innovation it takes to be a transformative workplace.

Companies afflicted with mass employee burnout need to rethink everything about how they’re approaching their mission. A positive culture of giving back is a powerful salve against the daily rough and tumble of business as usual. Charitable cultures serve as an effective antidote to much that disengages employees and create a base of goodwill that improves every touchpoint of an organization.

Join us at our upcoming webinar on January 24th at 10:30am PT/ 1:30pm ET to learn about tapping into the interests of all of your employees, including the ones that haven’t expressed interest in volunteering yet.

Register now

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