opinion piece

International HR Day 2023 – Building “people ecosystems”

On the occasion of International HR Day 2023, Murielle Antille, Chair of WEC’s Career Management Network, reflects on two major shifts affecting HR that resonate with the added value that the career management sector can bring – trust and well-being – and how closer collaboration between HR professionals and career management experts can build ‘people ecosystems’ that will help tackle the complex challenges of today’s world of work.

Published on 17th May 2023

This week we are celebrating International HR day, a great occasion to thank everyone working in Human Resources (HR) for their role in building value, fulfilling dreams, and creating better working lives.

One can easily get worried by the amplitude and pace of change as well as the increasing stress related to dealing with uncertainty and pressure. This changing world of work creates new challenges for HR and transforms its role significantly. During a webinar organised on the occasion of International HR Day 2023, the European Association for People Management EAPM identified the most significant shifts, and two of them resonated with the added value that the career management sector can bring: trust and well-being.

Trust is a must

Trust is the foundation of all successful relationships. Yet, the notion of trust is challenged today, notably with the rise of remote work. Many managers find it challenging to trust remote employees and shift from the number of hours worked towards broader productivity measures. As Herdis Pala Palsdottir from the Icelandic HR Association argued, HR professionals have the opportunity to enable them to step up and build back trust in organisations. Indeed, as workers are increasingly looking for career development, managers must acquire the tools and skills to hold meaningful career conversations.

This specific responsibility of leaders to orientate workers through change and to nurture relationships based on trust was at the core of discussions at the World Employment Conference 2023. Murielle Antille, Chair of WEC’s Career Management Network, discussed how career management experts increasingly shift their role as partners to employers towards more strategic advice on managing change and deploying a people-centric leadership philosophy.

Beyond getting broader expert advice, engaging with an external career management provider can also support HR departments to boost engagement in internal career mobility programs. At times, external coaches can best help workers feel entirely at ease sharing their feelings and goals openly. An external coach permits them to envision their ideal career without judgement. Not only can this increase the effectiveness of the intervention, it further helps build trust in the employer’s intention to do the best for its employees. This can be a game changer.

Well-being is more than yoga classes.

Another area where HR professionals are expected to get more involved is well-being. Dainius Baltrušaitis from the Lithuanian HR Association indicated that one out of three employees and executives are struggling with mental health challenges at work. He laid out different factors at play, among others badly designed jobs, inefficient working methods, poor leadership, etc. HR departments should consider moving beyond the tactical well-being tools towards supporting employers by designing jobs that fulfil people. This is well supported by research conducted by Gallup which identifies career well-being as the strongest driver of employee well-being.

The impact of one’s career satisfaction is too often underestimated in the overall well-being conversation. According to a survey by the Adecco Group / LHH in 2022, 17 percent of workers globally take sick days to balance their mental health. That same study revealed that more than half (51 percent) of frontline managers – the leaders who have the most contact with non-managerial staff daily – admitted they struggled to identify and address burnout and mental well-being issues in their teams. Without adequate training, leaders work to identify when employees need support.

At a time when the skills mismatch requires more career transitions than ever, adequate career support could prove particularly impactful to positively support happiness at work and mitigate mental health challenges. However, organisations are not investing enough in career support and development of their employees. Indeed, 24 percent of global non-managers indicated they had never had any formal or informal career conversation with their managers. Organisations are also not sufficiently strategic around actively reskilling their workforce to move into the roles now and into the future.

Career mobility programs enable individuals to take control of their careers and increase their sense of empowerment. Ensuring that career pathways are visible to the workforce and offering options so they can move into those promote career wellness significantly contribute to preventing skills stagnation. That doesn’t mean employees leave once they are trained; on the contrary, job satisfaction increases as a result, and workers are more likely to stay.

Building a people ecosystem

In conclusion of the discussion during EAPM’s webinar, speakers shared which values would be fundamental for HR professionals moving forward as the future of work is changing: care, curiosity, and courage. Let us add “collaboration”. As the World Employment Confederation, the global trade association for HR services, we believe in the power of pulling all our forces together and building “people ecosystems” to tackle the complex challenges of the world of work. That’s how we will deliver the best results for companies, workers and society as a whole.

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