Helen Ives: Five burning HR questions answered

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What are the typical mistakes when it comes to employee engagement?

Engagement can be complex, but it’s important to think about this being the outcome of the relationship between the employee and the company.

Engaged employees need an emotional attachment to their job, as well as the necessary tools required to work to the best of their ability. How can all of this be achieved? The answer is to provide the right leadership.

On a day-to-day basis, the right leaders can help staff to feel connected, solve problems, provide feedback, and advise on the organisation’s strategic direction. Investing in the right leadership for your organisation is an invaluable part of your company’s success.

How do you improve staff retention?

The ideal for any HR department is to achieve the ultimate workplace, where employees look forward to, rather than dread, coming into work every morning. The key to nurturing your employees is to ensure that they’re working alongside the right people, in the right environment and in the right job role. Creating a fun, engaging environment that inspires your team to work effectively will also help boost this.

Key initiatives to help breed staff retention also include providing employees with access to personal development and training opportunities that match their career ambitions. This helps them feel that they are growing with the company, and encourages them to picture their career with the company long-term. For example, some of the opportunities we offer include sponsored further education of up to £3,000 per year and a £200 personal development allowance to be spent on fulfilling a personal learning aspiration that isn’t related to the employee’s job.

From an HR perspective, you need to focus on the total well being of your employees to help creates an environment where people can thrive and do their best work.

How important should employee personal development be to employers?

Personal development should be a vital priority for any employer. They need to think about learning and skills development needs in terms of accessing the right content, as and when it’s needed, using a multitude of platforms.

It’s important to make employees feel wanted, but it’s also vital to give them feedback and also allow them to provide feedback on a regular, or even a continual basis. According to a recent independent survey, 87% of Brits prefer more training and development opportunities over a higher salary – so take note and ensure that your organisation offers a creative and effective development program.

In a global HR position – what are the challenges when dealing with such diverse employees in different countries?

Working effectively across various time zones is a real challenge. People leaders have to provide great leadership virtually, at the same time as trying to retain their own life-work balance. In an increasingly digital world, this is becoming more and more important and HR has a key role in developing strategies to help.

The arrival of Generation Z (1996 onwards) is another challenge for HR, as for the first time there are 5 different generations working together. However, rather than seeing this as a challenge it should be seen as a great opportunity as there is now a wide range of talent to draw from. It provides a fantastic opportunity for development and the opportunity for employees of varying ages to learn from each other’s strengths and skills.

The other big challenge is implementing HR policies and practices that safeguard company culture, whilst at the same time spanning physical locations and diverse groups of employees. For example, in the US employment rights and benefits plans are very different from in the UK, which can create some internal inequity within a business. The HR department therefore has to get creative and challenge traditional assumptions in their design of a global perks and benefits program that truly delivers the company’s values.

The role of HR has drastically changed over the years – how do you see the role of HR in the future?

The key to future business success is going to be even more about the people within your business. Therefore as HR professionals we need to see ourselves as having the expert knowledge and experience that assists in delivering this business success.

I passionately believe that the human element of HR and the role of people advocate is a critical one.  We need to stand up and challenge our organisations on the right and wrong ways of doing things, and be that critical friend and trusted advisor in all decisions affecting our people.

Helen Ives, HR Director, PEER 1 Hosting

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  1. I concur totally with Helen’s submissions in this article regarding employees becoming their organisation’s critical friend and trusted advisor in all matters impacting on their lives. This read has provoked some thoughts in myself and a spark has been kindled within me to bring a burning issue to the notice of ‘the powers that be’ within my organisation in relation to supporting the staff to access training and development suited to their individual needs and aspiration which must not be within the job’s remits.
    A learning organisation is a growing organisation. Moreso, as Helen rightly claimed, organisations should be conciously thinking of the total wellbeing of their staff as a sub-set of their overall strategic plans regarding sustainability and long-term business goals in order to remain such employees’ ultimate employer. It is my belief that the later should be one of the missions of any organisation executives in today’s competitive, global and savvy business world.

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