HR departments should strive to be more “humanised” in order to increase employee satisfaction, retain workers and attract new talent

Clare Eagle, Chief People Officer at Natterbox advises HR departments to increase employee engagement by hiring Chief People Officers who implement initiatives to keep workers fulfilled and reduce retention

HR departments should strive to be more “humanised” in order to increase employee satisfaction

Clare Eagle, Chief People Officer at Natterbox
advises HR departments to increase employee engagement by hiring Chief People
Officers who implement initiatives to keep workers fulfilled and reduce

With Brexit only just a few days away, SMEs across the UK are scrambling with last minute preparations, anticipating the dreaded “doom and gloom” period as the UK prepares to leave the EU. However, one company believes they have the solution to bringing a bit of cheer back to the workforce. Clare Eagle, Chief People Office at Natterbox believes it is important to create more “humanised” HR departments to bring joy and passion back to workers, helping to retain and attract new talent and keep members of staff fulfilled in their roles.

“Where HR has been a more transactional function of managing payroll and annual leave, Chief People Officers work to make passion and employee engagement a top priority to attract the right people for the job, and offer them the fulfilment they need to stay,” Clare said.

Employees are often ridden with guilt when they skip work due to appointments, arrive late after dropping children off at school, or leave the office early due to medical reasons such as illness. This can cause staff to fear their job would be impacted over circumstances out of their control. A more “humanised” HR department will effectively create a workplace environment that helps suit people needs individually rather than as a whole.

Removing boundaries and hierarchies between employees and employers can also help staff feel more at ease and remove the fear of raising new ideas or challenging their superiors. In addition, initiatives such as charity work or re-working benefits such as holiday leave will also leave staff feeling more fulfilled and potentially bring higher job satisfaction rates.

“At Natterbox we’ve seen a significant impact from implementing these measures, where we used to have two or three voluntary departures a month, we’ve had none in the last couple of months,” Clare added. “This shows the tangible impact humanising HR can have on staff retention and talent attraction.”

Since undertaking her role as Chief People Officer in Natterbox, Clare said several initiatives have brought about a significant reduction employee attrition with improved staff relations and higher employee engagement.

“I was engaged at Natterbox to address employee retention by building a sense of culture and enhancing employee engagement,” Clare said. “Since then, a number of initiatives have been put in place to increase communication between departments and management levels, to clarify and communicate the company strategy and values, and to build networks and relationships between employees at all levels. Consequently, we have seen a decrease in attrition from 22% to 1.9%, which is a fantastic result for us.”

Interactions between workers and their bosses, social settings and relationships between members of staff were the most crucial factors that impacted employee engagement, Ms Eagle said. Creating an environment where employees can thrive, interact with one another and foster connections is key to building a more fulfilling and happier workplace for employees.

“Leadership-employee interactions first and foremost, then conversation, communication, giving feedback, asking for input and building relationships,” Ms Eagle added. “Addressing the people side of the business and fostering connections creates employee stickiness with a brand. Likewise, providing opportunities for social interactions when employees can get to know each other and build connections is very important. For example, by organising after-work company drinks, Christmas and summer parties and other employee social events, i.e. opportunities to connect and bond over shared experiences.

“Sometimes you need to facilitate these yourself by attending events and getting on the dance floor (quite literally!) – creating introductions and connections between people. It is about managing the dynamics and observing how people are interacting and what they need to do to strengthen their relationships and connections with colleagues.”

It is important company strategy is implemented and articulated clearly to employees, ensuring they meet the criteria and long-term performance goals – and this can effectively be done through proper communication, meetings and regular updates with staff in order to ensure every team consistently progresses.

“The best way is to clearly articulate what the strategy is and provide employees with progress updates at regular opportunities,” Clare said. “At Natterbox, we have quarterly company meetings where the CEO, Neil Hammerton, shares business updates against the key strategic levers and achievement of financial performance goals. Employees want to know how the business is doing, how they are contributing to that success and what more they can do, so having performance goals linked to strategic levers is key. We are also integrating business improvements into practical group projects as part of the management development programme.

“Consistency of communication is also crucial. This is best done by ensuring you have a variety of touchpoints for different communication purposes – whether that be employee newsletters, CEO updates, quarterly management meetings or weekly one-on-ones.”

Employees now have higher expectations when it comes to their benefits package. In order to take away the extra pressure and cost that comes with lavish packages, Clare advised companies to offer deals tailored to their worker demographic or provide flexible packages where employees can pick benefits that would suit them.

“Employees have higher expectations around benefits packages than ever before, with more companies offering the likes of private healthcare, flexible working, gym memberships, free lunches, personal development budgets, unlimited holiday and much more,” she added. “Regardless of whether employees have the time to take additional leave and utilise all of their benefits, it is key to offer a package that appeals to your core demographic. As more businesses place a focus on diversity, flexible benefits packages are also a good way of providing something for everyone without inflating budgets as employees can pick the benefits that are best suited to their life- phase and style.”

Clare predicts HR departments will shift to a bigger focus on employees and their well-being, addressing company issues through “people solutions” with the aim to attract and re-attract new talent in an ever-changing workforce, as employees increasingly move between jobs to further their career.

She also expects companies to be more open to work-life balance, with the option to work from home, take longer leave, go back to studying and provide contracts that allow easy transition through personal life stages, such as having children or caring for parents.

Speaking about the future of HR departments, Clare said: “I expect them to become far more transformational and data led, with a focus on addressing business needs through people solutions. We will also need to be faster at engaging and training employees as increasingly people are moving between jobs more freely to further their career experiences.

“Where retention becomes more challenging, re-attracting talent will also need to be a huge focus moving forward by, for example, creating an alumni community to bring employees back into the business. Connections with universities and educational institutions will be imperative not just to secure a pool of talent, but to influence the syllabus to meet industry needs and skills gaps.

“More openness to work-life balance such as to work from home, take extended leave, go back to study, or longer-term changes to employment contracts to reflect personal life stages – having children or caring for parents, for example, will also become more prevalent.”

Employee satisfaction isn’t only up to HR alone – leadership and management teams will have to work hand-in-hand to build connections and relationships with their staff to ensure everyone is fulfilled and enjoying their roles, in order to reduce employee retention and keep staff performance at peak.

“I don’t think it is the job of HR alone, but leadership and middle management also. HR provide the tools, resources and mechanisms for people to perform in a business, but meaningful connections and long-term relationships with managers and leaders enable performance and retention within an organisation,” Clare added. “I believe HR need to prioritise understanding what resources the business needs and the demographic who are employed, in order to provide the appropriate benefits packages, training facilities and communication channels.”

Latifa Yedroudj
Latifa Yedroudj

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