“When I saw your ping, I thought, ‘Oh shit, what’s wrong?'”
That is the greeting I was met with when I reached out to a new team member to see how her first two weeks had been going. She further clarified that in her career experience, you only heard from HR when there was a problem. She did not need to explain, though. I already knew exactly what she meant when she made that statement. I mean, who in HR doesn’t? That is because we have spent years as HR professionals providing human capital management. The time has long come for the transition to the Human Experience professional.
You have seen the change in titles. Human Resource professionals are now referred to as People Operations or People Experience. So why is this important? Let’s face it, times are changing, and so are people. No longer are people coming to work and not being seen or heard. They want to feel like not only does their work matter, but that they do too. The extreme adversity of this past year has made people, more than ever, want to be heard and seen, and rightfully so. When an organization falls short of this, its people will move on.
Human experience is shifting the traditional workplace culture from treating people as a resource of the company to recognizing that they are the company. The differences in the people that make up our team members are the embodiment of what an organization is. To succeed as a thriving organization, employers must recognize their team members for every trait, good or bad, that shows up in the workplace with them.
As HR professionals, it is our responsibility to manage this change. Generations like Millenials and Gen Z are the future, but they are also changing and molding what the workplace will look like. They are setting new standards for all of us still in the workforce. And that is why the human experience is so important. Organizations must listen to their team members. Their feedback not only allows them to be heard but gives HR professionals the information needed to change how services are offered to their teams.
The last year has given many opportunities for organizations to start shifting to the human experience. With the onset of the pandemic, we quickly saw the need to change work to remote and virtual work experiences. For some, the transition was easy and proved to assist in productivity. And for others, not so much. Traditional HR professionals might have missed the opportunity to introduce the shift by simply reminding their team members that the organization has an Employee Assistance Program and to reach out to their HR department if they needed help. As Human Experience professionals, this opportunity allowed us to engage with our team members and discover what works best for them. Some organizations found through this transition that the eliminated distractions in traditional office settings allowed their team members to focus more on the work they needed to get done. Others found that some team members did not have the internet bandwidth required to keep up with their work. Some found that their team members faced domestic violence situations at home, and the office was a much-needed daily refuge for them. However, these discoveries would not have been noticed if employers had not stopped to listen to what their teams were experiencing. A lot of listening transpired over the last year, but we cannot stop there.
In our organization, we have an internal coaching program. Monthly, the program deploys a topic that allows us to work on professional and personal development. This month’s topic was empathy, and it could not have been timelier. The pandemic has changed the way we work. We have less personal connection with so many of our interactions becoming virtual. While this has been a welcome change for some, it has created elevated stress levels and reduced productivity for others. Traditional approaches to HR have not embraced the uniqueness of team member’s needs. Adopting a strategy focusing on the human experience allows us to recognize the differences amongst our team members and understand why it is essential and create better teams.
We cannot just stop at our team member’s work experience. Our people live an entire life, one that, more often than not, integrates into their work experience in some form or another. They are Black, Indian, Mothers, sons, coaches, volunteers, etc. Sometimes, these roles conflict with their obligation to you as their employer, and your team member has to suffer silently.
Our job is to tie these personal experiences into our team member’s work experiences daily. They should not have to shed their personality and life experience at the door when they clock in for their shift. They should not have to keep it together for the sake of professionalism for 8, 10, or 12 hours and pick it back up at the end of a long day to continue in their personal spaces at home. They should be able to bring that outfit over the threshold of our doors and be received by peers who see and acknowledge their life experience. Who asks, “How are you doing?” or “What can I do to help?” or “What do you need from me?”
As employers, it is our job to ensure that we do the work. Human interaction and decisions are critical to giving our team members the human experience they deserve every day. By focusing on their needs, we can create an environment where team members want to work and succeed. So, where do you start? Set up weekly, monthly or quarterly check-ins with your team members. On holidays centered around a specific cultural background, check-in with those team members and ask them how best they feel your organization could acknowledge them and their holiday. When the news features crises impacting a specific demographic within your organization, check-in with those team members and allow them to share what they are experiencing and what they need. What that looks like will depend on what feedback you receive, but you have to start somewhere, and somewhere is listening.
And that is the definition of the human experience.