Placing people first: the humanisation of the workplace

Human resource (HR) departments are becoming ever more important within an organisation’s framework. As they steer away from a focus purely on production and outcomes, businesses around the world are beginning to see the value of engaging with their employees.

A 2015 CareerBuilder survey in the US found that 65 per cent of CEOs agreed that HR opinions carry greater weight with senior management. This data supports a growing trend towards embracing mindfulness and general well-being in the workplace. It will become critical for HR leaders to take full advantage of this movement to help drive change within an organisation.

There’s a fine balance needed when implementing initiatives that foster this change. HR professionals must develop strategies that continue to engage employees and improve the human experience, while demonstrating to senior stakeholders that there’s also value for the business – whether that be increased productivity, improved branding or heightened contribution.

Here are some of the ways HR departments can help to humanise their workplace and positively impact lives.

Communication is key

Ineffective communication within an organisation can be detrimental to overall morale and productivity. Building fluid communication streams to encourage employees to speak up is key. This provides them with a platform for constructive feedback and involves them in the decision-making process.

While every business needs some form of managerial structure, the more traditional hierarchies can often close off conversations and create a barrier for potential innovation to blossom. Considering a more transparent approach towards communication will help to build an environment that’s unlikely to have these barriers. Regular group meetings, informal chats about performance and concerns, as well as company updates are just a few ways to help open up the communication channels.

Building a healthy environment and culture

The demand for choice and flexibility is becoming a must-have for many working professionals. Employees are looking for workplaces that make them feel safe, comfortable, and that allow them to be creative and feel connected with their fellow co-workers. Employees also want the flexibility to be able to choose their working hours, and not be restricted to the traditional 9 to 5 system.

Businesses need to be aware of these preferences and make changes from within to accommodate. HR leaders are in the driving seat here, where they have the opportunity to implement a range of measures that can help shape a more positive culture and attract top talent.

Communal spaces throughout the building will encourage a considered approach to workplace habits This includes encouraging people to eat lunch in the office, taking breaks away from computer screens and providing a relaxed area for developing strong relationships with other employees.

Encouraging employees to lead active lifestyles, through group fitness classes or meditation sessions with their co-workers, can also enhance mental wellbeing, team cohesion and relationships. Additional facilities like showers and change rooms, as well as bicycle spaces, strengthen this commitment to health and wellbeing. Initiatives that are not physical, such as movie nights or conferences, also add to developing a positive culture.

Learning and development opportunities

Investing in people is one of the best ways to contribute to the humanisation of the workplace. HR leaders have the opportunity to spearhead training and further education programs to really showcase to employees that the company is willing to invest in their future. Furthermore, there’s also the potential to have an imminent return on investment for the business.

It also pays to think outside of the square in regards to these learning and development exercises.  For instance, allowing employees to take ownership of their education provides them with more control of their future growth within the business. Look to develop a collection of potential programs or courses that employees are able to enrol into, of which the business is happy to support. Additionally, a range of mentoring programs for new recruits could be developed in conjunction with the induction process. For HR, it’s a matter of validating these programs, showing how the knowledge that is gained can be applied in the workplace.

Reward and recognition

Incentivising good behaviour, high achievement and loyalty are great ways to boost productivity and efficiencies in any type of workplace. Employees feel more valued knowing that senior management have acknowledged their hard work, dedication and effort that has gone into delivering projects and successful outcomes for the business.

The reward doesn’t have to be significant, the recognition doesn’t have to be large-scale – however, as humans, we value the thought of being respected. It doesn’t necessarily have to come at a big financial cost for HR, although the result for the wider business can prove extremely rewarding.

Use data to demonstrate results and success

A powerful way to solidify HR strategies is to utilise data collected over a period of time. This helps businesses determine the value of these ‘humanising’ activities. In other words, does the data suggest that employee productivity or satisfaction has improved business outcomes? Employees want to see this mindful approach to their work life continued into the future, while executives want to see a return on investment to be able to truly embrace the shift towards humanising the workplace.

To thrive in a global marketplace, organisations need to balance their business objectives with optimising human experience. To achieve this, HR leaders must be fully prepared and equipped to take on the challenge of driving this change. An online Master of Human Resource Management from RMIT can be completed 100 per cent online and develops the necessary strategic and managerial skills. To find out more, speak to one of our Student Enrolment Advisors on 1300 701 171.