While workforce expectations are changing, some business leaders are daunted by the new normal and want to reassert the status quo–leaving HR caught in the middle. The pressure is on to arbitrate between employers and employees in a debate that’s raging on at least five fronts.
1. Hybrid working
Expectations around work-life balance have shifted dramatically since the pandemic. Employees are now serious about demanding hybrid working and will often move roles if it’s not offered. Unfortunately, whilst the HR team may also believe in hybrid working, many business owners remain unconvinced, expecting everyone to move back to full-time office work–and expecting the HR team to deliver that news. This leaves employees not only feeling aggrieved with the lack of flexibility, but also feeling they are not trusted. It creates a cycle of people leaving to follow hybrid work and then being impossible to replace.
2. Flexible working
The picture is similar when it comes to working hours. HR teams see the real value and the employment law implications of flexible working but may struggle to get buy-in from business leaders, many of whom still believe it’s best to offer as little flexibility as they can get away with (remove this bit in red), HR then has to pick up the pieces when an employee is upset that their new “flexible” arrangements amount to being allowed to leave at 4pm one day a month. HR teams also have to deal with the pressing issue of employment rights around flexible working, clarifying the rights and responsibilities of all parties in this shifting landscape so the business remains compliant.
3. Outdated benefits
While HR teams are tasked with reviewing and implementing benefits, they often don’t have the power for actual change. This means that if the leadership thinks ping-pong in the office is still a winner but mental health support is unnecessary, all HR teams can do is explain their point of view and hope somebody listens. If not, they’ll be hearing employees’ complaints, but won’t be able to resolve them.
4. Cost-of-living pressures
The cost-of-living crisis is impacting employees at all levels, with many skipping meals or struggling to afford travel to work. HR teams are hearing more and more pleas for financial support–but again, if the leadership doesn’t agree that cost-of-living payments would pay for themselves in increased productivity and employee retention, there isn’t much they can do.
5. When both money and talent are short
Despite the current talent drought, employers struggling with squeezed budgets often decide recruitment fees are a good place to cut costs. Companies are now encouraging their HR teams to recruit direct to save money but aren’t factoring in the time spent and the extra pressure this places on HR–let alone the fact that in today’s candidate-short market, very few apply direct.
HR teams may feel they’re in a thankless position as arbitrators, forced to deliver disappointing news to both sides. However, it’s worth continuing to advocate for change– history is likely to be on your side.
If you are looking for support hiring HR professionals, or you want to work for a business that places importance on HR, contact Sewell Wallis today.