By Eric Torigian, Chief Human Resource Officer, SitusAMC
2020 has been a unique and difficult year for businesses and their employees. The pandemic has forced us to change many aspects of our professional and personal lives. This wave of change is washing over into the workplace as well, challenging old norms and forcing reinvention. Rather than fight this, the best leaders are embracing this change and helping blaze a path forward.
This year’s journey will be especially personal for me as I embrace a new challenge. I recently joined SitusAMC as the firm’s first Chief Human Resource Officer. As SitusAMC continues its rapid growth, we recognize that it is more critical than ever to elevate Human Resources (HR) as a key strategic imperative within the organization helping shape and guide areas such as talent retention, recruitment, culture, and affirmative action, among others.
As an HR professional, I have seen how HR has the unique opportunity to influence what an organization will become in the future. Like many of you, my career began in a very well-established organization with a very well-established HR system. At the time, the organization was seen as a model for good HR practices. Our approach was copied and replicated across the world. In that environment, my biggest challenge was to understand the systems and learn how to apply them.
However, todays HR professionals face a different challenge. The pandemic has challenged many legacy HR practices. People are questioning returning to traditional brick and mortar offices. The past year has shown us all a new, possibly more efficient way to do business. In this new world of work, people are not going to accept the old assumptions about where, how and when work gets done.
At SitusAMC we are in the midst of reinventing the HR function, moving away from HR as human capital management and towards HR as the champion of the employee experience. While it remains as important as ever to get the HR blocking and tackling right, I see four key concepts as critical to any HR team’s ability to empower people and their organization for the immediate and ongoing future:
- Remote work (in some form) might be here to stay
If you are like me, not only can you remember telling people that remote work was not possible but you probably also advocated for most people having an onsite presence. Prior to 2020, the corporate world resisted the distribution of the workforce. The pandemic forced us all to take a global pause and then move quickly into a remote working environment. There were no studies conducted, no beta tests of hardware/software, no evaluation of effectiveness. We just did it, quickly, and made it work. Now that we have some experience with video conferences and team chats, it would be challenging to entirely undo this change and put this genie back in a bottle. People’s expectations about work have changed. It is HRs role, now more than ever, to help guide and shape the future of remote and in-office working environments.
- Work and life must integrate
Gone are the days of work life balance. We used to think about ways to get people away from the office and reengaged in their personal lives. I supported a regional Vice President who would shut off his devices and go to his son’s little league games in the afternoons. While at the time this was a revolutionary approach to a work schedule, people now demand that work integrates into their life as opposed to putting one or the other on hold. They will look for roles where they can add value to an organization and still remain present in the natural rhythm of their lives. By recognizing this and cultivating it, as opposed to holding onto antiquated approaches, I believe we can create an even more dedicated team driving stronger to our collective goals.
- The role of HR is expanding
Organizations will expect HR to have a broader portfolio of skills as we navigate the new normal. These skills will be made up of two distinct sets of functions – administration and engagement.
Our teams are going to look to us to first be very good administrators. Having widely distributed teams with nontraditional working arrangements will require very accurate records and diligent attention to HR tasks such as compliance.
Additionally, organizations are also going to need HR to understand and drive employee engagement. It is going to become increasingly difficult to lead in the new norm of distributed teams. The effectiveness of Leadership by presence will be diminished and the ability to manage employee experience will become critical. HR will need to understand this and take a lead in shifting our cultures towards the new mindset and supporting managers as they lead their teams.
- Accountability will no longer be linear
Because we will no longer work in traditional ways, the traditional performance review and annual cycles will become extinct. Organizations are going to have to move to a more fluid, deliverables-based leadership style. Performance discussions will become more frequent, raises will be tied to effectiveness and the concept of potential will change. People will expect to be given very clear deliverables and targets, will need transparency to the vision/mission of the company and will need to have new and stronger communications channels.
Our team members will become more consultative and that will be a good thing. We need to break the transactional model of work and get to a project-based world.
One of the biggest risks right now for any company is not the pandemic itself, but how we respond to the change it is ushering in. Are we open to change? Are we embracing the new normal and looking for ways to leverage business results? Many leaders will fall back into old comfort zones and try to use old techniques to manage. HR will need to guide and champion change. We need to break these norms down, challenge everything and not allow leaders to do things because “that’s how we have always done it”. We need to blaze new trails and learn how to communicate like never before.