HR Binoculars

HR’s role is becoming even more complex and broad, it’s not just about attracting and retaining, developing our talents, creating better leaders, making sure the organisation is set up for success – it’s also about the impact on society, our role as an organisation when it comes to sustainability. 

There are so many timely and relevant aspects to what’s happening in the world at any given moment for us HR professionals to take into consideration. Here’s what’s on our HR minds right now.

The HR horizon: how do we keep people engaged when working remotely

Coming out of the first month of 2021, the question remaining on the tongues of every HR professional is: how do we keep people engaged when working remotely?  Making sure employees can feel a connection to the company from their remote locations, and are also set-up to do the very best job and be productive, is the ultimate balancing act we must all master – and quickly. 

Does this require a new kind of leadership? Possibly not, but future ways of working while distributed will require leaders to become more adept at leading through time of ambiguity. They need to hone their skills as stewards, rather than knowing all the pieces of information before taking the lead for their team.

There’s also a need for leaders to put an emphasis on different things and make sure they really connect with their team on a regular basis. Leaders should start by asking themselves questions like: “How do I feel when working remotely? What extra things do I need to feel connected to my team, department and company? What do I miss from the office?” All leaders need to listen to their employees, as individuals and as a team. It’s wrong to assume they feel the same as the leader, or as each other. 

Leaders should not forget about the things employees normally get in the office, such as chit-chats about the weekend, someone checking in with a simple “how are you doing?” and being able to see body language as an extra clue to how someone is really feeling and whether they might need support. So, any leader must now be conscious of this and make sure to take the pulse of their team, getting a reading on what state they are in and how things are working. It’s certainly not as easy picking up body language on a screen. Then, it’s just as, or probably more, important that the leaders also follow up on the work their team is involved in, checking on whether further support is needed, or how a collaboration is working out. It’s always good to ask if a team member feels heard and seen. In short a development and growth follow up. And continuous openness and seeking of feedback. 

This is more or less what we, at Spotify, consider that continuous planning and 1:1’s should contain. It’s something that’s needed to propel both individual growth, but also the growth journey as a team. This will never get old, but as a virtual leader there needs to be a concerted effort towards continuing to work with the team on how to communicate better, create involvement, be more effective, going from good to great. 

There are so many tips out there on how to conduct great virtual meetings, probably with many more to come, so listen in on the tips and tricks, work with your team and set up your own house rules. For instance there are many advantages with virtual meetings if you think ahead on how they are structured. For example, if you have one team in the office and others working remotely, one suggestion is for everyone to have their own space in the virtual meetings so you don’t create an ‘in’ vs ‘out’ dynamic. The essentials to inclusion in any 100% online meeting situation is to make sure everyone gets their voice heard and to coach all team members not to feel excluded because others take up too much air time. Remember, there are pros and cons to sound and camera on rules – some people might feel less comfortable sharing what goes on around them. We can all set virtual backgrounds, but we cannot filter all the background sound out. 

One question we should all be pondering is whether it will become much more equitable to have a distributed workforce as managers and the business have less oversight on each individual’s day, and therefore the focus will land more on the outcome. Or will it pose a situation that becomes even more biased, where those who can meet in person are able to build a deeper trust and are therefore advantaged? Some say it might have a negative effect on the gender pay gap, increasing differences due to the fact that surveys are showing a trend towards more men stating that they’re likely to spend time at the office when they open up again. There are other things that need to be taken into account of course, health (mental and physical), workplace safety, insurance, tax. It will be interesting to see how regulations adapt to support remote work in a better way.  

Another area that’ll be affected is organisational and individual growth. As we look forward to what’s on the HR horizon, we can see constant learning and curiosity being a key factor. Personal growth to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world, and laying foundations for employees to evolve within the organisation will mean steering away from traditional structures with hierarchies and monetary reward. Those who’ve not already made this shift in mindset will find that they have to take part in this journey now.  


My HR list

Working remotely is on all of our minds right now, but when gazing a bit further into the distance there are definitely more topics on the HR horizon. A relatively young area in science, but one that’s truly fascinating is neuroscience. As more and more research comes out that explains how we work as humans, or rather how the brain runs us, we think it’s something for all HR pros to follow. Therefore at the top of our playlist for January, was the 2nd season of “Din Hjärna” (Your Brain) on SVT play (unfortunately not subtitled so you need to take that crash course in Swedish if you don’t have that skill already). The program is led by Anders Hansen, senior physician in psychiatry, who’s an excellent facilitator, to help us understand how the brain works and why it works the way it works. It gets us to thinking that neuroscience should be part of any HR professionals’ learning plan. 

Other things on our playlist for January were: