Employees have full, complex lives, and they need to be treated as such, according to the Society for Human Resources Management.

Everyone is concerned with mental health. The integration of DEI into every aspect of HR is no longer a box to check. Workers care about the world outside and want their employers to do the same. Employers are taking notice of people working in different ways at different times.

The first day of the live conference and expo of the Society for Human Resource Management yielded a few more observations.

The idea that people are an organization’s most important asset is gaining traction outside the department and throughout the entire organization, according to Kris Erickson. Retention of talent is a priority for the entire C-suite.

Why did employee engagement increase during the early days of the Pandemic? People tend to look for safety and security at the lowest levels of the Hierarchy of Needs. Many were grateful to be employed during the major job cuts that hit in the spring of 2020.

The engagement of employees dropped below pre-pandemic levels. This drop can be attributed to a failure of leadership.

According to a survey of millions of workers across more than 20 industries, the single leading factor driving engagement was a company’s future vision Trust in leadership was the 3rd. Employee recognition and the potential for growth and development were some of the factors that scored high.

No matter what happens, employees want to know their leaders are able to right the ship. They want open, honest, two-way communication between the leaders and their employees. They want a clear-eyed sense of the company’s purpose and value. People don’t want to work for a company.

The Top 10 factors driving employee engagement for the first time include diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. She gave special attention to belonging, which she described as the psychological safety to participate in the conversation, which is a step beyond achieving representation (diversity) and making workers feel welcome.

What drives belonging? “Erickson, what are you saying?” Her data showed that it is about the individual, with attention to employee growth and development, two-way communication and a feeling of support during turbulent times.

The bottom line is that people want to be seen for who they are, and they want the workplace to be a place they can be proud to belong to.

A panel led by multi-generational work expert Lindsey Pollak and featuring Raina Sorgenti, associate director of Absence Management Programs at Yale University, and Shauna Murphy Cour, vice president of employer solutions said that employee benefits for parents goes beyond the standard few weeks of maternity leave.

Cour said that employees will head for the door if parental leave is less than a few weeks. She said that leadership is not looking at the big picture while on leave. Turnover costs the organization more than a leave of absence does. Panelists noted that a longer leave may provide another benefit in terms of future engagement and productivity. Cour said employers should think differently.

Flexibility is something parents and caregivers want. Sorgenti described the personal benefits that came from cutting out the commute and adopting a remote work schedule, from not rushing in the morning to being able to cook dinner again. She said these are opportunities to connect.

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Panelists said that communication is essential to the benefit of experts. Cour suggested that HR pros should have monthly workplace spotlights on different benefits to make sure they are easy to navigate. Sorgenti recommended reaching out to people who have benefits.

The importance of listening to employees and connecting with employee resource groups was emphasized byPanelists. Inclusive language and imagery should be used in benefits resources in order for employees to better understand how they can be utilized.

Panelists said parents need to feel welcome at the workplace. Cour said that managers should know the names of their direct reports children in order to care about employees.

While HR pros probably prefer to focus on benefits that can improve employees’ lives and the other fun elements of their roles, the attendance at ” Confronting Lovable Under-Performers and Landmine Employees”, a session led by productivity improvement specialist Randy Anderson suggested many are grappling with less

Anderson said that there isn’t a magic pill to address difficult employees. The one thing that HR should know is that they can’t excuse poor performance or behavior. The impact will reverberate if they do, the best performers will leave, the poor performance or attitude will infiltrate the culture, and the employee will lower workplace standards. Anderson said you have to be careful about addressing poor performance.

Anderson said that he would take emotion out of the equation with a conversation strategy. He said to identify the employee’s behavior or performance and compare it to expected behavior or performance. The employee is asked to do a self-assessment. Follow up with questions if you start with the facts. Give the employee a sense of what they can do to meet their expectations.

Anderson told them to make a plan. Don’t try to control how employees change to meet the expectations. He said to let the employee do it their way and focus on the outcome. Clarifying expectations, the method of measurement toward those expectations, potential rewards and consequences, and of future expectations and accountability are some of the most important elements of the conversation.

Anderson said that it is possible that the employee is in the wrong role if their responsibilities changed and they didn’t sign up for it. It can take a long time for an honest and transparent conversation to take place.

The HR world has seen a lot of data over the past few years, so remote work remains very attractive. The director of HR thought leadership at the Society for Human Resource Management walked conference attendees through research that explained why that is the case.

In order to determine job attractiveness, it created a series of fake job profiles with seven different features, including work location, commute time, compensation, position level, benefits, professional growth potential and company reputation. The three attractive features were work location, compensation and commute time. Smith said that an on-site job with a 30-min commute would need at least 20% more compensation to become equally attractive to a remote job.

When it comes to both productivity and relationship-building, the perception of remote work still differs from reality. On-site workers think remote workers are not working as much. A majority of both remote and on-site workers think that it’s more difficult for remote workers to form strong relationships. Both remote workers and on-site workers were more likely to struggle in forming strong relationships because they believed they worked just as many hours. Workers on-site were more likely to be passed up for promotions and job opportunities.

One of the most striking findings from the survey. There is work that is remote. Half of employees are definitely looking for a remote opportunity for their next job, and 25% of those currently working on-site.