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What is Essential?

Carol A. Kiburz, VP of HR, Acme Brick

Carol A. Kiburz, VP of HR, Acme Brick

The past 18 months have challenged our country and our world in ways we have not seen before.  It has certainly caused me to pause and reflect on what is most important in my life, community, company and discipline. Working to operate an essential business in a pandemic has taxed our employees and leadership team to the hilt and driven us to focus on the most essential elements of the business.

From an HR practitioner’s perspective, I have come to believe that two elements are essential in any workforce in the world for employees to thrive:

Do your people feel that they are your greatest assets?

Do your people feel that their work, and the mission of the company, serves a noble purpose?

If your people do not truly feel that are your greatest assets, their engagement will not be fully achieved, they will not deliver their best performance, and your customers will not be delighted. There is a multitude of studies and data demonstrating this (SHRM, Gallup, etc.). 

If your people do not believe that their work and their company serve a significant/noble purpose, I don’t believe you will achieve comprehensive engagement. 

I encourage everyone to read Hubert Joly’s The Heart of Business. Joly elaborates on the importance of pursuing a noble purpose as a company and putting people at the center of the business. It has played a significant role in shaping my world and work view.

Pay, benefits, working condition and technology enablement are all important, but if your people do not feel that they are your greatest assets and that their work is meaningful you will never achieve your ultimate potential as a company.

"Historically we have focused on ‘Great Place to Work’ awards and designations as a society, but that focus is on how great the workplace is, not our employees or our greater purpose"

HR Must Align to the Essential

Within this assumption, then, we re-examine the full talent lifecycle from a new lens. Do you communicate to your candidates and new hires these two messages? Do your employees understand how important their work is to the company and the world? Does goal setting, performance conversations and reviews align to this?  Do our compensation and benefits align with this?  Historically we have focused on ‘Great Place to Work’ awards and designations as a society, but that focus is on how great the workplace is, not our employees or our greater purpose. I don’t believe a ‘Great Place to Work’ in and of itself should be the end game; our goals must extend beyond our workplace to our people and our purpose.

HR Technology Alignment to the Essential

Once HR is aligned to the essential, technology can serve as a great support and enabler of this but must be selected and deployed properly. Does your applicant tracking system, and the recruiting experience, convey these messages? Should a performance management system be deployed with ratings and weightings because your people need to be measured more scientifically? Or should a simpler approach of goals and quarterly conversations be maintained? Should technology be deployed on mobile devices to make it more accessible to your people, or is that a distraction from employees trying to serve customers? Are your employee engagement surveys measuring the engagement in the way it now needs to be measured?

Conclusion

In conclusion, this past year has completely solidified my belief in valuing employees and embracing a noble purpose.  This is a work in progress at my employer, a continuous journey, and I would welcome any thoughts you might entertain along these lines.

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