It has been a strange year for HR as pressures have mounted and solutions that have promised the easing of stresses have been released by the bucket load.
One company that has been at the forefront of the complications of the pandemic has been Globalization Partners.
The company that enables clients to hire and manage global remote employees anytime, anywhere has seen and tackled a myriad of issues.
With that in mind, UNLEASH was keen to catch up with the company and discuss the toll of 2021 on the workplace, as well as get a sneak peek into what to expect in 2022.
Kathryn Barnes, employment counsel EMEA at Globalization Partners, sat down with UNLEASH and spoke candidly about the state of workplaces at the moment.
The here and now
Barnes notes that people “over the last two years have really taken stock of their lives and what is important to them.” She reasons that this reflection has led to people changing jobs and retraining.
However, Barnes isn’t convinced that all career changes will be a good fit: “As time goes on, and reality sets in within those different areas, I think that there’ll be a shift again, into people possibly going back.”
In terms of returning to familiar sectors, there is still a need for change, particularly in hospitality.
Barnes comments: “Industries like hospitality will need to change, they will need to change in terms of pay, because it’s its minimum wage in a lot of cases.”
After taking a moment to acknowledge the basic rights that hospitality workers are afforded, Barnes adds: “I think we need to be recognizing that people deserve a little bit more flexibility in their lives, and be recognized for the work that they do.
“Hospitality industry is so demanding, and there are long hours. I don’t think minimum wage actually covers that, so I think that there does need to be a change.”
With that change in mind, Barnes looks to the future.
Improving employee experience
Over the course of the pandemic, employee experience has been a huge talking point. Not only that, but a large number of companies decided to take action and offer flexible working arrangements.
Barnes notes: “I’ve always been a champion for remote work and having hybrid work, even before the pandemic.”
This is an important factor in retaining employees explains Barnes: “I’ve always believed that the hybrid work regime works because people need that flexibility.
“Tech and wider industries will need to recognize that there does need to be flexibility and if they give that flexibility, they will get so much back from their employees.
“Bring in a flexible vacation package so they [employees] can take as many days off as they want to, but they’ve got to work for it, or they can accrue it. Bring some incentives in that will really reward your staff and make them feel valued.”
Barnes draws attention to those who have worked through the pandemic during an incredibly uncertain time, as a result, companies should reward employees and make sure they have enough to look after themselves.
“Employers really need to look at their policies and procedures, what they’ve got in place and understand it,” notes Barnes.
She continues they need to look at what they have in place “from a flexible working point of view, from a family time off point of view, do you have as a workforce with lots of carers or people caring for children or elderly relatives?”
Barnes reassures employers that: “Just because you’re giving people time off or time away from the office does not mean that you’re not going to get that back in return.”
Trust is vital in a positive working experience and this can be demonstrated by allowing flexible working.
Reflecting on personal experience, Barnes says: “I had a day off a couple of months ago” because of a company-wide ‘Rockstar day’ which enabled extra time off without impacting vacation days as a sign of appreciation.
As a result, she picked up her son from school who said “we need to get back because you’ve usually got a meeting there”, to which she replied that she had time off.
Barnes’ son then “got really upset. He told his mum: ‘You need to thank your boss, tell her thank you.”
With this experience in mind, it is clear what a positive impact flexible working and reset days can have.
Interestingly, Barnes also notes that charity endeavors can be beneficial for employees and employers.
Barnes reflects: “I’ve noticed that we get in requests for volunteering and companies giving time off for their employees to go and volunteer for so many hours and months.
Typically charitable endeavors ramp up prior to Christmas, but giving time “is going to be fantastic for any company and their PR, if they’re working with charitable organizations, and given their time and their money and their efforts, then you know that’s just going to reap rewards, but on the back end employees see the value in that from a business perspective.”
What to watch out for in 2022
While providing flexible working, improving benefits, and investing in charitable endeavors can improve employee experience, there are also dangers to watch out for in the coming year.
Transparency is key. Barnes explains: “You could lose really good people, because of a lack of transparency and communication.”
Equally, rushing back to an office could be an issue despite hopes of regaining company culture, Barnes warns that “not embracing the change” is a major issue to be wary of.
She notes: “I’ve heard so many things and read so many things in the press about companies that have just decided to go straight back into the office and not really understand where their employees have been over the last two years, mentally, physically, emotionally, in terms of their family dynamic people have lost, we’ve lost so many people to COVID-19.”
On the back of the pandemic, many people have experienced new mental challenges. As a result, many companies have looked into wellbeing.
Barnes notes that it is vital to keep investing in this area and keep an eye on the feeling and sentiments of employees. Undoubtedly, a healthy, happy workforce achieves more than a sick one.
Finally, Barnes reflects on the difficulties surrounding the globalization of talent pools. Barnes highlights the need to get insight into the regulations of other countries and support remote staff. This is precisely the area that Barnes and Globalization Partners focus on.
However, it is clear from our conversation that the benefits in hospitality and beyond need to be addressed alongside flexible work.
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