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HR Strategy Advice for People Leaders in 2024

The events of the past two years have shown the importance of Human Resources in modern workplaces in an exceptional way. HR professionals are finally receiving more recognition for their critical contributions to businesses, especially in adapting to global changes on a sometimes week-to-week basis.

Businesses understand more clearly just how much rides on the work of people leaders.

This year, HR teams will continue to face new challenges while supporting teams who are stretched thin and adapting to changing regulations. That said, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. HR professionals are more ingrained in decision-making and can drive positive change in their teams. New technology is empowering people leaders to automate processes so they can focus on people. And workers are ready to choose companies that truly value them.

So how can HR teams not just survive, but thrive this year? We've gathered some of the best HR strategy advice from top people leaders!

Be Intentional About Your Own Well-Being

I understand better after the last two years how intentional I’ve become about my own well-being and mindset.  Designing my day and focus with morning walks and nightly reflections have become as ingrained as logging into Zoom. There is an absolute connection between how I care for myself and how I care for others. – Linda Rad, Principal at Envision Leadership Consulting

You can't pour from an empty vessel.

HR teams need to prioritize their own well-being, or they'll never be able to help their teams succeed. This year, find ways to recharge regularly, and examine your company culture to see if it encourages working sustainably. Re-examine your own boundaries between work and personal life, and ask yourself what you need to operate at your optimal level.

How are you supporting yourself, and how does that model behavior to your own team?

Next, take time to reflect and understand what you need to help your team succeed in the long run without burning out. That could mean shifting your own routine or the company culture at large. This year, consider making big changes to the way your team does business to support well-being.

For instance, it might be time to examine your PTO policy to see if people are actually taking time off. Look at your communication channels to find ways to cut down on business chatter after hours. If you haven’t embraced a more flexible work schedule in the past two years ago, now’s the time.

As a people leader, you have the power to seriously impact your own well-being as well as your team’s success and your company’s culture. Don't be afraid to make those changes.

Prioritize Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Be sure to consider all of your employees when you are looking at engagement scores. Separate your data by demographics so you can identify any blind spots for underrepresented talent in your organization. – Marquis White, DEI / L&D Consultant at Perfeqta
I am encouraged to see organizations prioritizing DEI. I recommend starting with data, both quantitative and qualitative, to assess how talent decisions impact goals and to target actions for meaningful progress. Common pitfalls are lack of action, often from fear of mistakes, or implementing programs that unintentionally contribute to feelings of exclusion. Key strategies involve auditing processes for bias, bringing employees together around common goals, and building an inclusive culture that actively values diverse perspectives. – Jessica Collins, Director, Organizational Culture and Analytics at Anchor HR Services

Employees are too often asked to leave their identities at the door.

That’s just not going to fly in the modern workplace. A biased environment negatively affects team performance and holds back teams from fulfilling their potential. And while it’s easy to say you’re in favor of diversity in the workplace, creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive company culture can be extremely challenging.

Understand that you probably won’t get it right the first time. Don’t be afraid to admit you have things to learn, and know that no company is going to handle DEI the same way. Every team is different, and while some teams might be ready to tackle hard questions right away, others need to create a foundation of a common language and understanding around DEI.

HR teams should begin their DEI journey this year by exploring data within available tools, looking for opportunities to address inequities. What does your data tell you about hiring decisions, promotions, collaboration, and work satisfaction across different groups?

This important topic requires a high level of thoughtfulness, bringing employees together for feedback, and often bringing in external partners to facilitate training and productively guide conversations.

Prioritizing DEI doesn’t just increase performance, improve recruiting, foster employee engagement, create a more just workplace, and boost creativity. It’s the right thing to do.

For more information on prioritizing DEI, take a look at the following articles:

Expand Mental Health Benefits

Regardless of why people are leaving their jobs as we enter a third year in a global pandemic, employers must put people first - no matter what strategies they use to engage them. Focusing on things like psychological wellness and offering resources and benefits around mental health shows that your company genuinely cares about employee safety and well-being. Jessica Miller-Merrell, Founder of Workology

76% of employees said that mental health benefits were critical to them when looking for a new role.

Mental health at work has been ignored for far too long. Workers are being asked to do more with less in a time of high stress, which has contributed to "The Great Resignation." As millions leave the workforce, burnout is at an all-time high. Not enough employees are getting the support they need for long-term success.

It's time to turn the tide.

We need to reframe the discussion around mental health at work. That means empowering employees to take personal time to bring their whole selves to work. That means offering mental health benefits that have been perceived as fringe or experimental just a few years ago:

Have you re-evaluated coverage for mental health expenses recently?
Is an employee assistance program (EAP) included in your benefits plan?
Do your healthcare benefits offer help with substance abuse?
Can employees access therapists, either in-person or remotely?
Are employees able to reasonably take time off to care for themselves?

Successful HR teams make mental health a top priority.

Dig into the Data

I see HR growing increasingly data-driven. We need data for our key priorities, from inclusion and retention to agility and the future of work. I expect investments in people analytics will soon be as foundational as an HRIS. My biggest recommendation is to start! Use what you have to prioritize your strategic questions and share timely insights for evidence-based decision making. – Jessica Collins, Director, Organizational Culture and Analytics at Anchor HR Services

Nearly every successful team will rely on analytics to inform their work. The power of data is being recognized in HR teams, and the insights it can bring your team are innovative. There are plenty of sources to pull from, including employee data, exit interviews, survey results, and performance management archives.

It's still a relatively new field, but there's plenty of reasons to dig into the data. Leveraging people analytics to inform decisions will put your team ahead of the pack. Data can help you identify red flags before situations escalate. You can fill gaps that aren't immediately apparent, and bolster the reasoning behind new initiatives.

If you're looking for a place to start, begin with your team's goals. Identify existing internal data you can use as a foundation. Explore the data, and work with your team to interpret results. But always remember the people in people analytics.

For more resources around people analytics, take a look at Visier’s Outsmart Blog and the Digital HR Leaders Podcast hosted by David Green.

Communicate with Transparency

We need to continue to find new ways to disseminate information so all employees understand how it affects their day to day world. We cannot simply send an email and assume. We need to find new ways to get the information in front of employees, when and how they need it, including by web page, podcast, video and leaders sharing in meetings. Wendy Dailey, Co-Host at HR Social Hour
Uncertainty is, in many ways, the 'new normal'.  Positive Leaders don't deny that truth or try to conquer it.  Rather, they support their teams by empowering them with transparency and elevating their sense of control by providing a 'seat at the table'.  It's almost impossible to maximize positive resilience when we feel disempowered.  Teams that have clarity and voice tend to thrive, even in the face of great challenges.  That's a gift Positive Leaders seek to provide. – Josh Vaisman, Lead Consultant at Flourish Veterinary Consulting
Transparency about policy, flexibility (scheduling, PTO, etc.), and a focus on employee training and development are all areas that companies should consider in order to retain current employees.Jessica Miller-Merrell, Founder of Workology

We're all ready for fewer surprises this year.

Give certainty to your team through transparency. Equip them with context to excel. Build mutual trust, and improve engagement through transparent communication. 

Engaging employees isn't just about keeping them updated. It's about creating a shared understanding of the business and its future. Business leaders need to make sure their teams understand what's happening in the company and how their work affects the big picture.

A transparent company culture starts from the top. Work with leadership to open up about what's really going on. Then, gather feedback from the team and give them an opportunity to contribute to the conversation. You can use that information to build a shared understanding.

To get people talking, start conversations. If a team member comes to you with a question or concern, use that as a chance to open up a discussion. Listen to what they're saying and respond with honesty and transparency. That might be uncomfortable at first, but giving your team a voice is the best way to build trust and encourage a more open-minded culture.

To make transparent communication a part of your culture, consider implementing a policy of defaulting to transparency.

Focus on People this year

Many HR practitioners seem to have lost interest in being strategic, but creating competitive advantage through people has actually never been more important than now. So whilst strategic HR is absolutely necessary, it’s no longer sufficient. These days, HR strategy also needs to be people-centric, meaning that HR creates value for employees (meets their needs) as well as the organisation. – Jon Ingham, Strategic HR Academy

How are you supporting and empowering your people this year?

Most folks in HR got into the business to positively impact people. It’s easy to get distracted from the big picture of people operations when there are plenty of small fires to put out. Now's a great time to take a breath! Step back and focus on the impact HR can have on your organization this year.

A new year represents a rare opportunity for HR leaders to care for their teams and strengthen engagement in the face of adversity. They will be able to lead their organizations into the future with a people-focused lens.

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Ben Travis

Ben is the founder of HR Chief. He enjoys working with passionate teams to solve impactful problems with technology.

He has a heart for HR/People Ops teams and uses his experience from the startup, agency, and nonprofit spaces to drive results.