Putting People First

The pandemic has had one unexpected silver lining: it has changed the way we think about people at work.

From seeing inside people’s homes on Zoom calls, to encountering the challenges they face in their home lives, we have all been confronted with the fact that the people we work with are, first and foremost, human. Factors such as wellbeing, purpose and psychological safety have all emerged as essential parts of job design over the past 18 months, and leaders and HR teams alike are now working to integrate them into new hybrid working models.

Hybrid working has a vital role to play in making the workplace more human, since it has the potential to help people lead more purposeful, productive and flexible working lives. However, for this to work, hybrid working models need to be designed around individual human needs as well as organisational priorities.

On the one hand, this means developing a deep understanding of how work gets done at an individual task level, defining the working models that will deliver the most in terms of productivity and performance, and building jobs accordingly. On the other, it means truly understanding what people need their jobs to look like in order to promote wellbeing and psychological safety – something that will not be the same for every employee at every stage of their career.

To ensure this works for real people, employees need to be engaged throughout the process, so they can provide input about how different structures and initiatives meet their needs.

To do this successfully, there are four key steps every HR leader should follow.

Set the scene. Engage with employees and encourage openness about both the challenges and benefits of hybrid working models. Frame them as problems you will solve together and invite different ideas and perspectives.

Take it slowly. Don’t expect people to share everything at once. Some of the biggest and riskiest challenges may come to light later in the process once trust has been established, so make sure your process is flexible and incorporates regular check-ins to allow for this.

Be transparent. Be clear about why you are seeking new arrangements as well as when and how you are prioritising individual needs and organisational goals. Share positive examples that showcase the human and business impact of each change.

Be vigilant. Especially when it comes to psychological safety. Carefully weed out any throwaway comments that may make people feel they cannot fully embrace hybrid working without letting down their team.

Is this topic relevant to you? You can learn more about this putting people first in the latest issue of Catalyst Magazine.