The Key To HR Success: Balanced Strategies

McLean's Janet Clarey
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Putting equal focus on organizational needs and employee needs is paramount today, says Janet Clarey, principal director of HR research and advisory services at McLean.

What does it take to implement “balanced” HR strategies? According to Janet Clarey, principal director of HR research and advisory services at McLean & Company, based in London, Ontario, Canada, it requires an equal focus on organizational needs and employee needs. Clarey spoke with StrategicCHRO360 about how to do that, the continued struggle to retain talent and why HR leaders need to attend to their own well-being. 

What does it mean to have a healthy balance of HR strategies within an organization and why is it so important?  

HR’s job is to find a way to balance organizational needs with employee needs. This involves assessing the difference between the current state of affairs and the desired reality to identify what is important and what will have the greatest organizational impact. The good news is that, despite the workplace upheavals of the last two-plus years, perceptions of HR effectiveness have increased, based on McLean & Company’s 2022 HR Trends Report.

Now, HR is moving beyond traditional functions and, in many cases, is adding diversity, equity and inclusion; corporate social responsibility; and environmental social governance to its portfolio. This is important because when HR is involved in the broader organizational strategy, organizations are 1.4 times more likely to be highly effective at quickly pivoting to capitalize on new opportunities and 1.3 times more likely to be highly effective and to generate and implement new ideas. 

What can HR departments do to start implementing balanced HR strategies?

There are three things HR can do to start implementing balanced HR strategies. First, HR can improve internal communications about its role and share how HR enables organizational success by managing the HR brand. Second, HR can focus its resources where they will have the greatest organizational impact by reimagining the HR strategies for today’s complex work environment. Third, HR has more on its plate than ever and must spend more time addressing its own well-being.  

What do you think has been the most difficult change to manage within HR departments over the past two years?  

Like everything else in the world, employee engagement has experienced severe turbulence over the past two-plus years. Employees’ relationships with their organizations have permanently shifted with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, remote and virtual work, and more. Employee priorities are changing, and the way organizations think about employee engagement needs to change as well.  

Retention, however, is a growing area of concern. McLean & Company’s 2022 Employee Engagement Trends Report found a dip in retention drivers scores—areas that influence an employee’s desire and likelihood to stay at an organization—in 2021 compared to 2019 and 2020. This reflects the challenges many organizations are facing with talent acquisition and retention in the Great Resignation. 

How can HR departments ensure that they are taking care of themselves in addition to being a resource for others within their organization?   

To be a resource for others within their organization, HR departments will need to identify opportunities to incorporate well-being across their HR programs. Talent acquisition programs, for example, can update the employee value proposition to highlight organizational values related to employee health and well-being. Talent management programs can update leadership competency behavior statements to include support for employee well-being and work-life balance.

The learning and development function can create employee training programs on developing three resiliency behaviors: activating networks, learning to learn and being flexible. L&D can also develop manager training on mental health and compassionate communication strategies. Diversity, equity and inclusion can update exit interviews to capture the experience of work-life balance, psychological safety and fairness or equity.

To be an effective and reliable resource for members of the organization, HR departments must look after themselves. They can do this by ensuring they are taking care of themselves by role modeling healthy work-life boundaries. HR teams must also recognize the importance of building their own resilience to ensure they are actively practicing resilient behaviors to help meet the many demands of the HR role and the organization. Higher levels of well-being improve resilience and being resilient improves well-being, creating an ongoing cycle of each affecting the other.

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