The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a sweeping range of workplace trends, but many organisations have underestimated the importance of creating meaningful and trusting relationships with employees.
Companies can reap benefits from developing more human-centric work practices that unlock employees’ full potential.
Fast-tracked by the COVID-19 pandemic, the future of work is here, bringing with it a changed perspective of work. In particular, employees are expecting more from employers and want them to take more responsibility for their holistic wellbeing. Providing an environment that inspires both trust and people to work to their full potential elevates both the individual and the organisation. This is even more relevant during times of crisis, notably in Hong Kong where the imposition of COVID-19 restrictions continues to produce headwinds for companies and their employees, as well as trigger an exodus of talent.
These COVID-related challenges and shifting expectations offer organisations the opportunity to reclaim one of their most fundamental missions – the care and resilience of their workforce. What’s more, it makes good business sense to do so – when employers focus on workers as human beings, not only do they lift their people, they also accentuate their organisational performance. Accenture’s research demonstrates that companies which engineer a culture supporting the workforce stand to gain upwards of 5% of revenue growth, compared to the anticipated 2020 average company decline of 4.7%.
This presents a tremendous opportunity for companies in Hong Kong to commit to making their people "Net Better Off", a concept stemming from Accenture’s research, which revealed that through meeting six fundamental human work needs, organisations are able to unleash their people’s full potential. The six dimensions of Net Better Off are Emotional and Mental, Relational, Physical, Financial, Purposeful, and Employable. The same research found that 64% of a person’s potential — defined by their ability to utilise their skills and strengths at work — is influenced by whether or not they feel better off across these six dimensions.
The challenge for organisations and the HR function is identifying the specific practices that unwrap the full potential of their employees. So where do they begin? There are five key areas companies can address to nail the sweet spot, starting with continuous learning.
Enable continuous learning
Talent in Hong Kong are hungry for opportunities to develop and upgrade their skills portfolio. This can be attributed to a variety of reasons, including personal ambition and drive, the pivot to hybrid and work from home models, as well as the fear of losing one’s job in an ever-evolving environment. With the squeeze for talent intensifying, organisations need to ready themselves to meet this need through the provision of continuous learning. There are two key aspects to delivering continuous learning strategies. The first is being able to identify employees’ continuous learning needs in the current environment, to ensure they remain successful day to day. The second is being able to anticipate the emerging skills needed and to equip individuals with these skills. When continuous learning is enabled, Accenture’s research has revealed that 98% of staff would recommend their employer to others, anadvantage in the talent war.
The importance of listening
Employees want to be heard and hearing what they have to say can help organisations make better decisions. It is important to empower workforces by anticipating, predicting, and responding to their needs. This can be done through leveraging technology to collect real-time data and launching an open channel that provides a continuous feedback loop. With the right communication tools, allowing employees to ask questions and engage with colleagues and team leaders can bring issues that need resolving to the forefront. In fact, 92% of workers are open to the collection of data on them and their work in exchange for an enhancement in their productivity, wellbeing, and other benefits.
This has several perks – it helps organisations flag trends at the front line and empowers people closest to the action to make informed decisions. As a result, this two-way channel connects employers and staff, enabling them to work collaboratively to transform data into insights and focus on building trust.
Augment with technology
The shift to remote teams has highlighted the need for flexible work arrangements, including selecting and applying technologies that allow work and work processes to be reimagined. Increasingly, this means empowering human-machine collaboration to provide data and insights that drive innovation and creativity. For instance, designing the digital workplace with technologies such as the metaverse for better team building and communication channels.
Solving “new world of work” issues requires flexible work models backed by technology that enables the workforce to spend considerable time working remotely. This can include a range of scenarios, from working from home in Hong Kong, to working elsewhere. It will also involve putting the right IT infrastructure and security protection in place to provide a safe yet convenient experience for employees.
Champion workforce wellbeing and equality
Safety and relational needs are more important than ever before. This means that companies need to reimagine how employees can be brought together, rather than looking to implement ad hoc, standalone offerings. Organisations should aim to build holistic, well-funded programmes with a focus on mental and physical health — ideally co-created by management teams working hand in hand with their people. It is widely acknowledged that employees feel greater ownership over programmes they help create, which strengthens adherence across the board.
There has also been a rise in demand for a healthier work-life balance, as well as for employers that genuinely care about employee wellbeing. Surveys by recruitment firms in Hong Kong indicated the primary motivator for more than half of jobseekers in 2021 was the desire for a better work-life balance. By continually engaging with their workforce and monitoring what’s working, organisations can place themselves in a stronger position to adapt programmes and initiatives as workforce needs evolve.
Set and share people metrics
Diversity and inclusion are not a set of principles that simply exist on paper – they are actions that organisations must pay close attention to every day. Leaders need to hold themselves accountable for diversity and equality through transparent metrics published internally and externally. They should also look to tap on experts to help create best-in-class diversity initiatives. This is especially crucial due to the increasing significance employees attach to purpose. In fact, roughly one in two workers has acknowledged that the ethical, sustainable, and moral values that an organisation holds are increasingly important to them.
Action today for a better tomorrow
Empowering the workforce to feel Net Better Off requires a holistic effort, rather than addressing individual aspects and expecting all the puzzles to fall into place. This means organisations can’t afford to address physical health issues without considering mental health, relational wellbeing, or continuous learning as unconnected elements. At a time when workforces at all levels are seeking more purpose from their work, by applying a human-orientated Net Better Off touch, individuals are more likely to feel engaged and motivated, learn faster, and come into their full potential.