Meeting Employees Needs Where They Are

We must meet employees where they are if we are to successfully help them. This entails taking into account the requirements of the workforce while developing policies and initiatives. We can occasionally feel tethered to our desks when working in HR. We occasionally neglect to take the time to determine what our employees actually need when we become overly preoccupied with all of these office and desk-related responsibilities. In order to create policies and programs that support our employees, we as HR professionals must meet employees where they are.

Understand company culture

Company culture is more than the mission and vision statements on the first few pages of your employee handbook. While company owners may view company culture one way, it can be a whole different thing when you start talking to employees. Include a slot for staff interaction in your schedule. Use your time wisely when traveling to other locations, for instance, if you work in a centralized HR department for a business with many locations. Plan to stay a little longer than necessary if you need to explore the area after your appointment. Find out the names and hobbies of your coworkers so you can establish a solid rapport with them. This will aid in establishing the framework for more open dialogue.

Pay attention to what staff members have to say regarding the policies and benefits. Do not disregard frequent complaints about a certain policy or a benefit adjustment as the result of grouchy workers. Recognize the demographics of your business to determine which perks will best serve the demands of your staff. For instance, if you are the owner of a coffee shop where many students work, think about the educational advantages. If there are typically more working parents in your workforce, you might want to increase your family leave policy and provide schedule flexibility.

Create policies that address how employees work

There are many employment laws and regulations we must abide by when drafting company policies. As HR professionals, we frequently have to balance designing a policy that complies with legal requirements with how the business operates. We can fail to implement a policy that effectively reflects how our workers work when we merely develop a policy that complies with the bare minimum legal criteria.

Take meal break policies for example. Here in California we have quite detailed requirements for meal breaks. The dinner break must last at least 30 minutes according to the legislation. Even though a business will be in compliance with the law if its policy limits breaks to 30 minutes, it can be beneficial for your business to provide workers longer. 30 minutes can be acceptable if you have enough area in the break room and many employees who bring lunch to work. Giving workers an hour may be preferable if many of your staff eat their lunches away from the office. Don’t just accept the bare minimum without considering how the policy will affect how your employees perform.

Support employees on technology changes

Another strategy to fulfill employees’ needs where they are is to determine what kinds of training programs address skill gaps. This is especially clear when it comes to office technology. The workplace appears to be changing more quickly than we can keep up with it due to technology. This means that in HR, we frequently introduce new technology without spending the necessary time ensuring that employees are aware of how to use it.

I have several friends who are teachers, and they have all told me about their struggles with the push to get more technology into classrooms. One of the things they noticed is that schools tend to throw technology at teachers with the expectation that they will just figure it out. While some teachers are comfortable with technology and are able to adapt, others struggle. Meeting employees where they are does not mean avoiding technology that could improve work processes. What it does mean is figuring out what training is needed and providing it.

Technology changes can be especially challenging for older workers, so if your workforce is older, meeting employees where they are may involve training in basic computer skills as well as setting aside enough time for one-on-one training when implementing new technology. Workplaces and how we do things are constantly evolving, so it is important to meet employees where they are in order to continue to develop them.

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Stephanie Hammerwold

Stephanie Hammerwold, is the founder and director of Pacific Reentry Career Services, a Southern California nonprofit that helps formerly incarcerated women find and maintain employment. She also blogs on a variety of HR topics as the HR Hammer. When not volunteering for her nonprofit, Stephanie has a day job in HR at a tech startup in Irvine, CA.


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