As we close out 2022, a year where we’ve adjusted to hybrid workplaces as the new norm, tried to understand quiet quitting, navigated ongoing inflation and economic uncertainty, and faced increasing demands for compensation and employee engagement, it’s time to look ahead to see what the next year will hold for organizations and HR teams.

1. HR will have to bridge the divide. 

Companies are going to over-index on performance — and risk damaging the employee experience.

We are still dealing with a global pandemic, and on top of that, we now also have inflation and economic uncertainty to contend with. As businesses look for ways to cut costs and increase productivity, organizations have tried various tactics to get more out of their current workforce, including requiring employees to return to the office at least a few days a week or using surveillance software to track employees.

Increasing productivity is easier said than done. Gallup found that highly engaged teams are 18% more productive and 23% more profitable than low engagement teams. However, only 21% of employees are engaged at work globally, with workers in the US and Canada slightly higher at 33%, meaning the majority of employees worldwide are disengaged. Low engagement teams have 18% to 43% higher turnover rates than highly engaged teams, which is costly to the bottom line.

Disengaged employees are leaving companies, but the reasons why they’re leaving and the reasons that executives believe they’re leaving are mismatched. Executives attribute attrition to transactional elements — compensation, poor health, and employees looking for a better job. Meanwhile, employees have reevaluated what they want in a job in the last few years, and it now takes more than money to retain top talent. A Lattice survey of 2,000 US and European employees showed that younger workers are looking for a place to belong. Work flexibility has also risen in importance: Recent Lattice research showed that 59% of Gen Z and millennial employees would consider walking out of a job over a company’s remote work policy. Plus, in light of layoffs and cost-cutting efforts, employees are being asked to do more with less, which is a surefire recipe for burnout.

HR teams have the difficult job of finding the middle ground, working with executives to set realistic goals for the organization while also trying to increase employee engagement and retention in order to achieve those goals. HR teams can create or revisit their employee value proposition (EVP), which is the promise the organization makes to employees and candidates that incorporates company values, compensation strategy, learning and development opportunities, and more. Employees are looking at their work experience in its entirety and are looking for businesses that align with their values. By emphasizing deeper connections, personal growth, flexibility, well-being, and a shared purpose, employers can shift their EVP to be more human-centric to show employees that they are valued as people, not just line items on a spreadsheet.

Your employee experience doesn’t have to be at odds with your business performance. Check out How to Use Performance Management to Inspire Employee Growth to learn how.

2. Your managers are not okay.

Manager engagement and retention will be a mission-critical priority for HR and business leaders this year. 

It’s clear that employees at all levels have faced challenges these past years, and that is certainly the case for managers, who sit in the wide middle area between C-Suite executives and employees and have to balance the priorities of both. Good managers have a specific set of skills and are more than just advanced individual contributors. They lead, manage, and develop their teams and reports. The past few years of the pandemic and shift to hybrid work have made managerial responsibilities multiply and grow in unexpected ways — not only do they have to champion their employees but they’ve also had to help employees navigate an unsettling economy and potential job insecurity, and managers are reaching a breaking point.

With engagement and retention more important than ever, the brunt of this responsibility falls on the shoulders of managers. Gallup data shows that team engagement depends heavily on the manager, who can account for a 70% difference in engagement rates. Employees want purpose in their jobs, but the “who” that can drive employee engagement is a caring manager. A GoodHire survey of 3,000 American workers showed that bad managers not only impact engagement, but also retention, and 82% of workers would potentially quit their job because of a bad manager. One of the top reasons employees leave their jobs is because they don’t feel valued by their manager.

But managers are also struggling with engagement. According to Gallup’s State of the American Manager Report, 35% of US managers are engaged, and 14% are actively disengaged. With these rates, it’s no wonder that employee engagement rates are also low, as employees who work for engaged employees are 59% more likely to be engaged themselves. And it’s not just that managers are disengaged; they’re also burned out and leaving their jobs. Lattice research also found that middle managers (defined as managers who oversee teams of managers) were the most likely cohort of employees to be actively looking for new work (70% in the UK and 50% in the US). 

Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trend Index showed that managers felt like they were stuck between managing executive and employee expectations, which often aren’t aligned. Over half of managers surveyed felt that their organization’s leadership was out of touch with employees. But managers felt powerless to create change, with 74% of surveyed managers saying they lacked the resources and influence to make changes for their team.

The role of the manager as a team motivator is more critical than ever, but managers are facing an extraordinary amount of pressure to have their teams deliver while trying to balance heavy workloads, manage people, engage employees, and maintain everyone’s well-being. Most managers do not have the resources or bandwidth to combat burnout when they’re facing it themselves. 

Companies need to find ways to support their managers, as they are a crucial part of improving engagement and company culture. That means including managers in the employee experience to get a full picture of how employees are doing, and implementing the right systems and processes to enable managers to succeed. Managers are less likely to know what’s expected of them than the people they manage, and over 40% of managers surveyed say they have competing priorities, so setting clear priorities and expectations can help managers focus on the most impactful business goals instead of trying to do it all. Organizations should provide career development opportunities to help their managers grow, as well as performance management resources (best practices in giving and receiving feedback, conducting one-on-ones, etc.) to help their teams succeed. And there should be a focus on well-being initiatives or programs to help managers combat burnout for themselves and their teams. 

Lattice’s 2023 State of People Strategy (SOPS) showed that manager training was the second highest priority for HR leaders in 2022, behind employee engagement. Investing in managers helps invest in the teams they oversee. Bad managers negatively impact engagement and retention and are therefore costly, but good managers give employees a reason to stay and perform to their best ability.

See what HR professionals around the globe had to say about this year’s priorities, successes, and challenges in The 2023 State of People Strategy Report.

3. Pay transparency is coming, and it’s going to be a mess.

Creating a compensation philosophy is only half the equation; employees want to know where they stand.

California recently passed a pay transparency law requiring all companies with more than 15 employees to list salary ranges for jobs. California joins the growing number of states, including Colorado, Connecticut, Nevada, and Washington, that have passed similar legislation requiring employers to disclose pay. The laws vary from state to state, which may be difficult for job seekers to navigate. Still, pay transparency has benefits, such as helping to counter the gender pay gap, the difference in salary between men and women in the US. Research from 2022 shows women earn $0.82 for every $1 men earn, and the gap is even wider for women of color.

Pay transparency is also in line with what employees want from employers. A Lattice survey on compensation found that 67% of US employees agreed their company should have transparency around pay policies, and over half of respondents think companies should disclose how much everyone is paid.

Companies, on the other hand, are still catching up. Lattice’s 2023 State of People Strategy found that pay transparency within organizations is still low, and even lower at smaller companies.

  • 54% of HR leaders said only HR and finance know pay bands.
  • 25% of employees know the salary band for their job level, but only 9% know the pay band for the next level up.

With 59% of companies investing in pay transparency, and 21% investing considerable effort in it, companies are making some progress. Pay transparency helps employees have trust in pay equity across the organization and can also increase engagement and retention. For example, if employees see a comparable job listing with a salary that is much higher than theirs, that information may help them negotiate during the next round of performance and compensation cycles. It can also save time during the recruitment process by weeding out candidates who are looking for a role that pays differently.

Compensation transparency can’t happen without proper planning and strategy. Businesses need to be clear on what they are going to disclose and how. To achieve that, People teams need to develop a compensation philosophy that provides clear guidelines, ties back to company values, and explains how salaries, raises, and bonuses are structured. Creating the compensation philosophy is only half the equation; organizations then need to develop a communication plan so all employees know where they stand and what the potential opportunities are for movement within the company.

Keep in mind that compensation goes beyond salary, and a compensation philosophy should factor in a total rewards package, which can include benefits, health and wellness programs, learning and development, and paid time off. These additional items may not show up directly on a paycheck but can still positively impact the employee experience. 

One way to add structure to your compensation strategy is to use a compensation tool, which can help HR teams securely share data, collaborate across teams, and implement updates as needed.

Fair compensation can improve retention, employee motivation, and overall business performance. Download How to Reward Top Talent With Pay-for-Performance to learn more.

4. We’re returning to fundamental workforce strategies.

The world of work is moving on from gimmicks like quiet quitting, productivity paranoia, or the hybrid push/pull.

Changes in work norms have led to rebranding of old trends with new terms in an effort to describe the shifts in employee expectations. For example, “quiet quitting” is simply a new term for employee disengagement, and “productivity paranoia” is when leaders are worried their teams aren’t working hard enough with hybrid work models, despite 87% of employees reporting they are productive. And even employees recognize that these are just new names for old stories: Recent Lattice research found that 45% of employees reported that they were not very familiar, or not familiar at all, with the phrase quiet quitting — and yet 36% of those same employees self-reported having “quietly quit” in the last year when it was defined as disengaging from their work. 

Neither of these trends began during the pandemic, but coining phrases for them highlighted the fact that engagement and productivity have always been organizational priorities, and HR teams have been at the forefront of navigating this new world of work. According to Lattice’s 2023 State of People Strategy, HR leaders expect some, if not all, of their workforce to be remote, and have prioritized employee engagement; manager training; learning and development; diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) programs; and performance management over talent acquisition.

As employee expectations change and organizations adapt to meet them, we’ll see a shift from The Great Resignation to The Great Recognition. Organizations will recognize that the best employees are engaged employees and that listening to workers’ feedback is not only good for employee growth, but for company growth as well.

5. “Hybrid work” is just “work” now.

Employees who have embraced it will increasingly shape where the new workforce is headed. 

For better or worse, a majority of workers have gotten used to remote work and all that it offers: no commute, comfortable work clothes, and more flexible schedules. According to behavioral economics, people avoid loss more than they seek gain, and thus they are not likely to want to give up remote or hybrid work, no matter what the additional in-office perks are. In fact, six in 10 fully remote employees and three in 10 hybrid employees said they are “extremely likely to change companies” if remote flexibility is not an option. Even though a company’s percentage of remote workers varies significantly by industry and organization size (for example, professional services and tech companies will have more remote employees than manufacturing companies), for most employees and employers, hybrid work is not an option anymore, but rather a requirement. 

Some of the early concerns with remote work were about how managers and employees needed facetime together for productivity and engagement. However, managers have become comfortable managing their teams remotely, with 45% saying they have enough facetime to effectively manage most employees and situations. Even the 26% of respondents who would prefer more facetime feel they have enough of it to handle major issues. This is consistent across companies whether they are 10% or 90% remote. HR professionals who feel there should be more facetime cited engagement and culture as their top concerns, with productivity ranking second to last.

Employees have realized that they don’t need to go to a physical office to do work and that they want increased flexibility so work can fit into their lives instead of the other way around. Smaller companies can shift to hybrid and remote work models more easily, and traditional businesses will have to follow suit to retain talent. Gen Z not only places greater importance on purpose at work, but will also be the first generation that has not been required to be in the office five days a week. Gen Z’s percentage of the total workforce will only grow over time, and as a result, as an increasing number of hybrid or remote employees move into leadership and manager roles, hybrid strategies will improve and solidify in the long term.

A shift in employee values and demographics, new and hybrid spaces where we physically do work, and an ongoing struggle to maintain employee engagement despite internal and economic pressures have all upended traditional organizational playbooks. HR teams play an increasingly important role in balancing priorities at all levels of the organization, evolving company culture to meet dynamic needs, and driving employee and business success.

‍Resources for Humans is Lattice’s Slack community of over 18,000 People leaders. The community is designed to help HR professionals connect, share advice, and ask questions. Together, we help each other navigate challenges by sharing resources and firsthand experiences. Click here to learn more about the free community.

Today’s turbulent job market is creating big challenges for UK businesses. Employee turnover is surging and the competition to attract new talent is only getting more difficult, with many organisations already feeling the impact on their bottom line. 

As people redefine their relationship with work and what they want from employers, it’s never been more important for UK HR teams to get their people strategies right.

Lattice asked more than 200 HR leaders and 2000 employees in the UK how they’re thinking about work, where their priorities lie, and what their biggest challenges are. Here are some of our key takeaways.

With the way 2020 has played out, it’s easy to head into the holiday season just wanting to get through to the other side.

But amid a pandemic, social unrest, and political uncertainty, it’s critical to support employees’ mental health and morale. That’s especially important as we head into winter and seasonal affective disorder starts wearing on millions of workers. Concerned about their teams, HR leaders are already thinking about how to finish the year with some (socially-distant) cheer.

We asked HR professionals in the Resources for Humans Slack community to share how they’re marking the holidays this year. From friendly competitions to show-and-tell events, take inspiration from our members’ advice and avoid ending the year with a “Bah, Humbug.”

1. Make it competitive (and involve the kids).

Tap into your employees’ competitive spirits and make the virtual holiday season interactive and fun with contests. Using tools like Zoom and Slack, HR teams are hosting pumpkin carving parties, gingerbread house bake-offs, and more.

“We’re doing a week-long fall festival at the end of the month. Each day has a different contest and theme. The first day is a desk or house decorating contest. Day five is a costume contest with prizes for best employee costume, best kid costume, and best dog costume,” said Jenna Brown, VP of HR at ParkMobile.

Employees can engage with each other in real-time over video or by sharing their photos on Slack. Members recommended “gamifying” events with simple prizes like Bonusly points and gift certificates. If you want to tap into that community spirit, ask employees to vote for their favorite contest entries.

Invoca, a call-tracking and intelligence software company, holds virtual Halloween costume contests every year. “Employees post a photo in a special Slack channel, then I put together a form with the photos so everyone can vote,” said Zoë Georgakis, the company’s Head of People Operations. “We’ve also had contests for desk decorating, house decorating, and best family costume.”

2. Bring the party to your employees.

From monster mashes to holiday formals, this time of year is known for parties. But with in-person meetings mostly out of the question, HR teams have had to get creative with their planned get-togethers. In some cases, they’re simply transforming their existing traditions into virtual-friendly events.

“We’re doing what we’ve done in the past but making it pandemic friendly,” said Ana Consuelo Castillo, People Operations Analyst at Nuxeo, “We’re doing a virtual cocoa bar, ugly sweater hangout, and potentially a white elephant gift exchange.”

If you have a holiday party budget, members also suggested complementing these events with thoughtful gift boxes. HR leaders in the community had plenty of recommendations for swag vendors and gift boxes curators, including Confetti and Knack.

At a time when vacation days are being underused by employees, some HR teams are also giving the gift of additional paid time off. “We’re also planning to use some of our holiday party budget in January, February, and March for our ‘Winter Wellness Days’ where we’re encouraging employees to take at least one additional day off per month to take care of themselves,” said Caroline Ellis, Human Resources Director at Homebot.

3. Give back to the community.

In the spirit of the holidays, some HR teams are also thinking of keeping employees engaged through charitable work. Ideas include sending holiday cards to children’s hospitals, contributing to a “toy mountain,” or volunteering with organizations that help the less fortunate in their local communities.

“In December, we’re going to ‘adopt’ a couple of families this year. I’m going to create a digital holiday tree where employees can pull sticky notes from the tree with families’ wish list items,”  said Cynthia Patterson, Director of People & Culture at MachineMetrics. “I’ll then create an ornament with the employee’s name to go on the tree to replace the sticky note. The goal will be to have a tree full of ornaments.”

When organizing initiatives like these, HR leaders advised that companies could introduce a competitive element by recognizing the departments contribute the most.

For those looking to give the gift of their time, volunteering is also an option. You could even take it to the next level by offering incentives for employees to participate. “We are rolling out a volunteer time off policy that sends swag to anyone who takes a day to volunteer in their local community,” said Ashley Bommarito, Human Resources Administrator at Offensive Security, said.

What’s your team doing to keep holiday spirits up? Share your experiences and see what others are saying by joining the Resources for Humans Slack community.

After months of asking employees to work from home (or not at all), companies are starting to welcome non-essential staff back on site. HR teams, already working overtime in response to COVID-19, have been asked to make the necessary preparations. So how’s it going?

Resources for Humans is an online community of over 9,000 HR leaders. To get a sense of what teams are going through, we surveyed members about the state of their return-to-work plans. Respondents were asked about employee sentiment, what the biggest hurdles are, and how they personally feel about the decision to reopen.

1. Employees aren’t eager to come back.

While the details are up in the air, companies are making plans for staff to return. But do employees actually want to? When asked what the results of their return-to-work surveys were, almost 40% of HR teams said employees wanted to keep working from home. Another 40% said their employees wanted to either work from home until early 2021 or once a vaccine becomes available. Experts say a vaccine won’t be released until sometime next year.

And what of the remaining 20% who wanted to return onsite? Survey respondents shared that these employees’ primary drivers are interacting with coworkers, in-person collaboration, and their own productivity. Though these individuals were in the minority, HR teams didn’t want to overlook them by halting reopening plans altogether. “This is very personal for each individual and we are managing that,” said one respondent.

Other HR professionals are as opposed to returning as their employees, even if leadership is pressuring them to move forward. Given employee sentiment and the general trend toward remote-friendly workplaces, what’s the rush? That was the perspective of several HR leaders who responded to our survey.

“I’m feeling frustrated. To me, this is an opportunity to pivot to the new world of work we’ve all discussed for a long time. Instead of coaching managers through this transition and helping evolve our culture for our new reality, I’m spending time scenario planning for reopening. I personally think reopening is a futile exercise as there are so many unknowns and variables to consider, along with so many differing viewpoints from employees.”

2. Companies are taking a nuanced approach.

Are companies going all-in on office space or opting to stay remote this year? As you might expect, the answer is somewhere in the middle. Almost 80% of survey respondents said they will opt for a hybrid model where just some of their employees work onsite. Only 11% said they will bring everyone back to the office this year.

To accommodate that split, 69% of companies plan on either giving staff the option to return or putting them on a rotating schedule. In their comments, HR leaders were understanding of the need to make those accommodations, though generally apprehensive about the logistical and cultural challenges.

“Being part of the People team, I’m looking forward to meeting in person with the co-workers I interact with…But I am just a bit concerned about how we’ll handle schedules and how we will adapt to the new normal. Being 100% remote is not the same as having only part of the team remote by choice. Team meetings will be a challenge,” said one respondent.

Another had a more optimistic outlook. “It’s overwhelming and it won’t be the same, but we’ll all adapt over time as we humans always do. We know it won’t look the same, but who’s to say it won’t be better than it was?”

3. Workplaces are going all-in on safety. 

Getting back to “business as usual” is a misnomer. There’s nothing usual about everything HR teams have planned ahead of employees’ safe return. When asked what safeguards or precautions they’re implementing, the vast majority of respondents indicated they are making major changes to the onsite employee experience, including:

  • Additional spacing between desks and sneeze guards/barriers (91%)
  • Hand sanitizer stations around the office (88%)
  • Limited access to shared spaces (79%)
  • Masks at all times (47%)
  • Temperature checks at the door (41%)

For already-busy HR teams, the above represents just more work on their plates. When respondents were asked how they feel about reopening, “stressed” and “overwhelmed” ranked in some of the most common words. “It feels a little overwhelming to think about all of the preparations I would have to make. In addition, we will all be considering what to do and not do day to day while we’re in the office. All of it’s going to take more mental energy than normal,” said one HR leader.

4. Commuting worries employees most.

HR teams have spent months deliberating how to keep workplaces safe. Naturally, interest in infrared thermometers and office cleaning services is at an all-time high. But while implementing these might pose a challenge, what troubles HR teams the most isn’t entirely in their control.

Almost a third of respondents said that figuring out how to handle employee commutes worried them the most. In comparison, meeting CDC standards and acquiring personal protective equipment ranked in at 23% and 11%, respectively. Those concerns are merited, considering the extent to which cities like New York and San Francisco depend on mass transit. Not surprisingly, when HR teams were asked what they thought troubled their employees the most, 79% picked “being exposed to COVID-19 while commuting” over getting exposed at work.

Naturally, HR teams feel uneasy about their own commutes as well. “I feel nervous because I’m expected to lead the reopening, but I don’t personally feel safe coming back anytime soon. I used to commute by public transit in San Francisco and I don’t have a car, so I don’t want to take on responsibilities that would force me to take public transit,” said one respondent.

Months after a pandemic shuttered the global economy, the notion of returning to work seems almost surreal. And as one might expect, determining the who, what, where, and why is a massive undertaking. How will you keep employees safe? Will you really ask everyone to come back? Naturally, there are more questions than answers.

Let’s take those first steps together. HR’s Return-to-Work Checklist walks through everything you need to know about reopening, from how to survey employees in advance to what safety precautions to consider.

On February 12, we brought over 16,000 HR professionals together for the first-ever Resources for Humans Virtual Conference. The event featured insights from over 20 inspiring leaders and visionaries. Speakers covered topics ranging from manager enablement to talent acquisition, offering actionable takeaways for every HR discipline.

Need a refresher on the content? We’ll highlight the conference’s most compelling themes. You can also rewatch the sessions on demand here.

1. Recruiting is still human — for now.

The past decade brought a lot of change to recruiting. One of the most exciting developments in HR technology is artificial intelligence. Technology’s growing role in recruiting came up during the conference’s morning session, Recruiting Trends for Hiring Your Next Top Performers.

“I think there’s a lot that A.I. can provide to make recruiters work smarter and make talent teams more informed in their decisions,” said Mike Moriarty, Global Head of Talent at Dropbox. While he’s not advocating for robo-interviews any time soon, Moriarty thinks technology can free up valuable time for strategic work. “We always talk about teams wanting to have a seat at the table and I think A.I. can provide the clearance and capabilities for [them] to do so,” he said.

Mike Bailen, VP of People at Lever, echoed that sentiment. But to him, an equally important development is the rise of company-rating services like Glassdoor or Blind. “Candidates have a lot more information at their fingertips about organizations, which allows them to be more selective in who they actually want to speak to and engage with. I used to ask every single new hire what some of the channels or avenues were that they looked at, and 100% looked at Glassdoor,” Bailen said. Technology gives jobseekers a look behind the curtain.

Similar anecdotes were shared in Build an Employer Brand That Attracts Top Performers. “Companies need to be thinking about this because candidates won’t even take a conversation with a company based on something they heard off the street or read on Glassdoor,” said Kelli Dragovich, Chief People Officer at Looker. While that might sound like bad news for recruiters, there’s a bigger upside: preventing costly mis-hires.

“The inside conversation that you’re having is now happening outside…It’s very authentic and clear, and it allows people to either opt in or opt out,” said Margo Downs, former Chief People and Culture Officer at Stitch Fix. Rather than try to please everyone, Glassdoor gives your company a chance to own its identity. “Not everyone wants to work for the same kind of company,” she said.

2. Management is all about trust. 

Keynote speaker and bestselling author Kim Scott has had a lot of different managers over her career. When a family member fell ill, one of those managers told her to get on a plane and forget work. 

Another manager, Sheryl Sandberg, told her she sounded “stupid” after a presentation for saying filler words like “um.” Scott ranked both managers among her favorites. The common thread? Both cared personally about their direct reports.

“Relationships don’t scale, but culture does — and when a leader has those kinds of relationships with their direct reports, then their direct reports tend to have similar kinds of relationships,” Scott said. When you genuinely care about your employees, your feedback or “Radical Candor” isn’t mean-spirited or harsh. It’s just you looking out for your reports’ best interests.

“It’s not all about the boss criticizing the employee. Radical Candor is about soliciting feedback, it’s about giving praise and criticism, and most importantly it’s about gauging [and] understanding how it landed and helping other people do the same,” Scott said.

A similar case was made in How Continuous Feedback Can Level Up Performance. “At the end of the day, our employees are demanding feedback. They’re demanding feedback because they want to grow and learn, and none of us can grow and learn without continuous feedback,” said Stephanie Garcia, SVP of People at Postmates. Managers are there to help develop employees, even if it means a few uncomfortable conversations along the way.

Building a feedback culture doesn’t happen overnight. But if you get managers into the habit early on, it can take root with their reports and the broader company. Amanda Myton, Director of Employee Development at Anaplan, has seen that dynamic play out firsthand. “If I can get momentum and help build those muscles, then that becomes part of the fabric of our culture,” she said. 

3. Development doesn’t always follow a set path.

Development isn’t about conventional feedback. It also isn’t about following a conventional path. Traditional career ladders keep professionals on a narrow, vertical trajectory within one discipline. Employees looking to pivot into new functions, like product managers interested in product marketing, haven’t had the easiest time getting buy-in from their bosses. The topic of unconventional career pathing was broached in The Career Ladder is Dead: Employee Growth Strategies to Help Retain Top Talent.

“Always remember that career development can happen in a lot of different ways,” said Nathalie McGrath, former VP of People at Coinbase. She believes that these conversations are more likely to happen at fast-growing companies. “I find that ‘hyper-growth’ is actually a great place for folks who want to go on a quick, steep route to learn a lot because there’s so much to do,” she said.

Eventbrite actively encourages employees to share their career goals with managers, even if those aspirations lead them to other departments. Empowering top talent to move within the organization demonstrates your company’s commitment to development and gives managers plenty of runway to backfill roles. According to Elizabeth Pierce, Global Director of Learning at Eventbrite, managers who facilitate these moves should be celebrated.

“Make sure that you’re harnessing what those really great managers are actually doing and you’re celebrating them — you’re showing [other managers] that, hey, this is a good thing for you to develop your employees,” she said. While managers are there to lead, they serve an equally important role as coaches and mentors.

John Meese, Creative Director at BambooHR, might have put it most succinctly. Management is about “being able to let go of responsibility…It is about engendering trust. ‘Yeah, I trust you. Go do that thing,’” he said. If you’re truly invested in direct reports’ growth, set them free. 

4. Employees care about more than salary.

The cost of losing an employee can be double their annual salary. And in this job market, backfilling roles is anything but easy. Companies are pulling out all the stops to keep their employees engaged and feeling appreciated.

“The modern employee demands much more than those of the past. They crave personalization, they crave authenticity, and they crave choice. Recognition is no longer a one-size-fits-all option,” said Morgan Chaney, Senior Director of Marketing at Blueboard. Her session, In¢entive$ Rule Everything Around Me: The Psychology of Employee Recognition, covered the many ways companies are rewarding employees. Bonuses and monetary rewards are fleeting — public kudos and praise are lasting and on the record.

“Non-monetary rewards offer increased psychic value, they build the employee’s physical and mental trophy case, and they allow employees to treat themselves completely guilt-free,” she said.

The Future of Flexible Work introduced another powerful motivator. A recent study found that nearly a third of workers have sought new jobs because their employers didn’t offer flexible work opportunities. For some, that means being able to work remotely when they need to. At InVision, a company with a 100% distributed workforce, it’s just how they do business.

“Our company was founded on the principle that we wanted to hire the talent where they were — not where we were,” said Linette Jensen, Director of People Operations at InVision. The company offers a full suite of perks to keep its remote workforce engaged, including wellness benefits, a meditation app, and a prepaid cafe card. InVision’s employees even have virtual happy hours, where employees shoot the breeze over drinks, all via webcam. “That makes it really fun and connected,” she said.

A growing number of companies leverage unlimited time off as a perk. But while attractive on paper, those policies sometimes result in employees actually taking fewer days off. Unclear expectations can also result in employees casually checking in while away. Heather Doshay, VP of People at Webflow, ran into that dilemma at prior roles. Webflow takes a unique approach to the issue: paying employees to go on vacation.

“Once employees go on that first vacation, we pay out a $1,000 first-vacation bonus if your first vacation is five days or longer,” Doshay said. Considering the high cost of employee burnout, disengagement, and turnover, identifying the perk’s ROI wasn’t a challenge. “It’s so important to do that. It’s really a low-cost investment,” she said.

5. Change is the only constant in HR.  

HR veterans have seen a lot of change over the years. As technology automates or takes away certain responsibilities, company leaders have started to expect more from HR teams. According to keynote speaker and industry analyst Josh Bersin, that means a change of priorities.

“HR has an enormous responsibility in 2020…They need to develop and assess and support a new generation of leaders, work on the employee experience, and focus on the productivity and the performance management practices that people deal with and learn and live with every day,” said Bersin. Any of those priorities could make or break a company’s chances of success. That’s a lot of pressure for one department.

Bersin’s claim isn’t just academic conjecture — it’s an on-the-ground reality for Olivia Bair, Senior Director of Global HR at Instapage. Since she started in HR, not much hasn’t changed about her role. She shared some of those firsthand experiences in The Employee Engagement Metrics That Matter. “We’re not just about law and compliance anymore. We’re about engagement, we’re about development, performance, goal setting, and everything else that is part of that employee lifecycle,” Bair said.

Her co-panelist saw a similar transformation taking place. Gray Holubar, Associate Director of People Operations at Artsy, sees the profession evolving into a conduit between business and employee interests. While HR is ultimately there to help the company achieve its goals, to get there it needs to foster alignment between business targets and employees’ motivations.

“I think one of the most important concepts within engagement is this idea of intrinsic motivation, or ‘I am internally motivated and driven to work in this role,’” he said. Engagement comes when employees feel like they have a personal stake in business results. HR teams will need to help foster that sentiment in 2020 and beyond.

We hope you enjoyed and took away plenty of insights from this year’s virtual conference. Rewatch the sessions on demand here.

Want to keep the conversation going? Resources for Humans is a Slack community of over 6,000 people leaders who believe the best way to impact a business is through its humans. Together, we help each other navigate challenges by sharing resources and firsthand experiences. Click here to learn more about the free community.

There’s a lot of evidence that workplace friendships have a positive impact on employees. But having friendships at work can put human resources professionals in a tricky position, since close personal relationships can lead to conflicts of interest and damage your credibility as an HR person. To strike a balance between being friendly and keeping up professional boundaries, every HR person needs to decide for themselves if and when they can have work friends.

The business benefits to having friends at work.

Most people would argue that having work friends is a good thing. Gallup’s research “has repeatedly shown a concrete link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort employees expend in their job.” It makes sense: we spend more time at work than at home, and it’s natural to want to feel connected to others. SHRM points out the detriments of loneliness at work: “Lonelier workers perform more poorly, quit more often, and feel less satisfied with their jobs.” So, not only does having friends at work have an impact on performance, but employees not having them can actually hurt retention and overall employee satisfaction. 

SHRM has more to say on workplace friendships. According to the Chief Diversity Officer Leeno Karumanchery at Canadian consultancy firm Mesh Diversity, “feelings of inclusion” help energize employees, making them more likely to be generous and helpful. “In a work context, that motivates us to work harder for our teams and for our organization (i.e., longer hours, increased workload, a desire to ‘make an impact’)” he says. “In contrast, feelings of exclusion actually cause changes in brain functionality, leading to diminished learning capacity, poor decision-making and an elevated threat response.” So, employees are truly their best when they have friends at work. 

But for HR, workplace friendships can be tricky.

Everyone, including HR professionals, wants to be their best at work. So it would follow that they, too, should cultivate workplace friendships — except it’s not so easy. Human resources professionals have a large responsibility to other employees, and their business. Alison Green of Ask a Manager tells one reader asking whether they as an HR person can have friends at work: “People need to trust that they’ve been dealt with fairly and impartially. Even when you have the best of intentions, that’s hard to pull off — in reality and in appearance — when friendships muddy the waters.” 

If employees perceive that you have a preference for a specific person in the office due to your friendship, any decision you make is tainted (and, further, any decision regarding that person, whether or not you even have a say in it). Suzanne Lucas breaks down all the situations in which you shouldn’t become friends with someone at work, including:

  • Having to weigh in on a promotion or raise for this person (or anyone else in their department)
  • Participating in any disciplinary decision for them or another member of their department
  • Determining layoffs that might take place in their group
  • Conducting, or being involved in conducting any investigations of this person’s department
  • Having influence over hiring and firing of personnel in their department

If your work friend gets a promotion, for example, even if they’re a solid performer who deserves it, someone will chalk it up to their having a personal relationship with someone in HR. Worse yet is the fact that some people won’t come to you if they think you’re friends with someone who’s causing trouble in the office. As Green puts it, “You don’t want someone who needs to report harassment hesitating because you’re friends with the harasser.” 

To have good relationships with coworkers, establish good boundaries for yourself and HR.

SHRM has some additional friendship advice for those HR professionals who may be the only person in their department, or who situationally may not be able to avoid all personal friendships with coworkers: 

1. Build a trusting but ultimately diplomatic network with all internal and external stakeholders. 

This is partly why, if you’re the first HR person at your company, we suggest meeting with everyone when you first get there. You should ideally have some kind of friendly connection with all your coworkers, even if it’s not a friendship. Your relationships with your coworkers will always be more defined by your common goal of helping the company achieve its goals, since that’s your job. That means it’s important to build and manage a relationship with most, if not all, of the company. You as HR need to be someone the employees of your company can trust. Being friendly and attentive helps you build that network.

2. Avoid emotionally close relationships. 

Which leads into the second point: those in human resources have to maintain some distance in their friendships at work. “Emotionally close” friendships — ones where you might share more than some light details about your personal life, or where you might spend time together outside of work, etc. — should be avoided if possible.

You can best understand how this boundary applies to you. If you can go to the gym with a few of your coworkers without becoming emotionally close, then by all means do so. But understand that going to the gym or to happy hour with coworkers is emotionally very different than going to someone’s wedding or birthday camping trip. If you’re at a loss as to how to define this boundary based on the situation, be honest with yourself in terms of how this might be seen by the rest of your coworkers. How might it affect your relationships with the coworkers whose gym or weddings or birthday parties you aren’t going to?

In another SHRM piece, Carole Robinson, owner of Ohio HR firm Check It Off, cautions that HR professionals aren’t there to like their coworkers: “It’s about understanding people, business practices and regulatory demands, as well as developing a culture that allows the business and the staff to thrive.” It’s great if you like your coworkers, but that’s not your function in the business.” 

Green, answering another HR person’s query about whether she can be friends with non-HR colleagues, says, “You can be friendly, yes. Warm and collegial, yes. But outside-of-work friendships? Not unless you’re extremely careful about navigating the boundaries…” So, only spending limited time with groups outside of work (such as the office happy hour) and limiting 1:1 social time with colleagues are generally wise moves. 

3. If you do have any close friendships with colleagues for whatever reason, excuse yourself from those situations that could seem to be a conflict. 

Basically, if you do have close friendships with coworkers, be honest about your bias. You might think you can work around it, but it’s better to be honest and recuse yourself.

Look for community and friendship elsewhere.  

Many people in human resources go into this profession because they like people, so this is can be tough to confront. That doesn’t mean you can’t make work friends! Green suggests finding friendships among “people who you can develop closer bonds with,” — as in, other HR people — even if you don’t seem to have a lot in common on paper. Lucas echoes this, saying, “We need to find our friendships either within the HR department or outside of work.” 

If you’re looking for a larger HR community, we recommend the Resources For Humans Slack community in particular.

A great goal as an HR person is to create a friendship-friendly workplace.

Finally, while HR may have to keep an amount of distance from coworkers for the sake of their role, they do have a vital role in workplace friendships: they can craft an environment where other employees are more likely to make work friends. SHRM mentions, “In addition to helping create opportunities for positive shared experiences, HR can educate employees about potential problems and help develop strategies to address sensitive issues.” Those opportunities, according to Patricia Sias, Ph.D., a professor of communications at the University of Arizona, can be designed by HR, or can come simply through encouraging people to work together on projects, shared tasks, and so on. 

Supporting other employees in their workplace friendships and giving them the tools to navigate any pitfalls allows HR professionals to create the kind of supportive workplace many employees need to flourish. 

SHRM points out that HR really sets the tone in the workplace: “By showing respect for, and interest in, the people you work with, you lay the foundation for high-quality relationships and encourage others to do the same. Ideally, the result is an environment where people enjoy working together and do their best.” 

HR plays a vital role in employee happiness, and the overall culture of the workplace. Even if you’re not there to make friends, you can help others do so, crafting a happier and more productive work environment. 

We partnered with Front, a workplace software company that is reinventing the inbox so people can accomplish more together.

When you step into the shower each morning, you have two choices: warm or cold.

Warm is the easy option. Your body enjoys it. Cold, on the other hand, is hard. It makes you uncomfortable.

If you spent a year turning the handle to cold, icy water still wouldn’t feel great, and that would probably never change. But what would change is your ability to handle the feeling of being uncomfortable.

That’s discipline, according to productivity expert Thomas Frank. As a YouTube star with 1.5 million subscribers and founder of the student productivity site College Info Geek, Thomas specializes in making people more capable, whether that’s through productivity, academic success, personal finance, or career optimization.

As big proponents of actionable discipline at Front, we sat down with Thomas to collect his tried-and-true tactics for building discipline and staying focused at work.

1. Choose the uncomfortable option.

Thomas says the best way to practice discipline is not to start something new, but to identify something you’re already doing that you can change in a small way. “Find a binary choice you make on a daily basis. Something where there are no excuses that can throw you off track,” he said.

“Find a binary choice you make on a daily basis. Something where there are no excuses that can throw you off track.”

Then, practice discipline by finding the less comfortable way to do that activity. “The cold shower is a great example of this. You shower every day. Nine out of 10 times, there’s no reason you can’t stick to it and make it a little colder.”

2. You can multitask. You can’t “multifocus.”

We all multitask at some stage throughout the day. Thomas emphasized that this isn’t a bad thing, so long as it’s not with tasks that require deep focus. “Multitasking is the process of doing two things at once. We’re perfectly capable of doing this if we’ve made one of the behaviors subconscious. For instance, I can sip this cup of water while talking to you,” he explained. “I can breathe and write a paper at the same time.”

“What we’re not made to do, however, is ‘multifocus,’” Thomas said. This is when you’re trying to do two or more activities that require you to think deeply. When you do this, your brain is jumping back and forth between activities. It’s called cognitive switching or context switching, forcing your brain to move from reading an article to your phone to something else — and our brains aren’t built for that.

3. Trick yourself into getting started.

The Pomodoro Technique is hardly a novel tactic for helping people focus at work, but Thomas argues Pomodoro isn’t useful because of the 5-minute breaks. It’s all about tricking your brain into getting started.

“I have to make my brain believe that it only has to do 25 minutes of work,” he said. The first 15 to 25 minutes of doing work often doesn’t feel good. But you have to go through it to enter a flow state. “Usually, I don’t even need the first break when I’m using Pomodoro,” Thomas pointed out. “By then I’ve already gotten past the painful part and into the pleasurable flow state of working.”

“Visualize yourself doing one more rep. See yourself writing one more sentence. Visuals help you keep pushing forward.”

4. Give yourself visuals.

We’ve heard time and again how elite athletes are the epitome of focus and discipline. Repeated practice and relentless dedication to their sport brings their play to the next level. Following CrossFit champion and entrepreneur Jason Khalipa’s AMRAP Mentality, Thomas takes “as many reps as possible” into school and work.

“It works for physical challenges, and it works for mental challenges too,” Thomas said. “Sometimes mantras aren’t enough. I’m a fan of strong visual metaphors, and this gives me one. Visualize yourself doing one more rep. See yourself writing one more sentence. Visuals help you keep pushing forward.”

5. Choose productivity tools wisely — and keep them clean.

Thomas says taking advantage of external tools is critical for staying focused on what you need to get done. “We need external systems. You use them instead of your brain, to offload some information so you don’t have to hold onto it all,” he explained.

“The trick is that you have to keep them organized. Then you’ll know it’s a source of truth, and you can trust that you’ll be able to find information there again. That way you can free up your brain space.” Thomas loves using Front to manage and collaborate on email with his team. He also recommends a habit tracking app called Habitify.

“Choose the one thing that’s bugging you most, and find a way to change it incrementally every day.”

6. Pick one thing.

Trying to change too much at once is a great way to sabotage your efforts to build discipline. “Start small,” Thomas warned. “You don’t need to do everything. Do one thing to start, and that’s it,” he said. Find a way to track your progress every day, and when you feel like you’ve mastered it, then add another exercise. “Choose the one thing that’s bugging you most, and find a way to change it incrementally every day,” he said.