The Forceful Winds of Change In HR

Article Contributed By Allison Ebner

The winds of change are definitely blowing in our workplaces. In fact, some people would say it’s been downright stormy for the past two years, with squalls cropping up on a regular basis. I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but we don’t see those winds of change drifting down to a cool, tropical breeze any time soon either. In fact, as people leaders, we can expect choppy ocean waters for the foreseeable future. So it appears we have a couple of choices here…We can continue to hope and pray for calmer seas OR we can embrace these volatile times and treat the constant change as a friend, not a foe. I’m going to make a case for the latter – so here goes!

Just about everything has changed for us personally over the past couple of years. Our personal relationships at home and with friends, our work lives, work styles, how we consume goods and services and how we spend our time. Change. Lots of it. Let’s drill down to our jobs as people leaders now. If literally, everything in the lives of our employees has changed, can we continue to manage, inspire and lead them using the exact same strategies and be successful? Probably not, right? Tony Robbins (love him or hate him!) has a great quote: ‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.’ Read it a few times – It’s totally true. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. We can’t use the same tactics to lead and inspire that we were using 2 years ago. We need to LEAN into the change that’s shaking up our workplaces and create NEW and thoughtful ways to engage our teams based on the realities of TODAY.

Tiny Buddha (don’t’ laugh) tells us that even if we resist or try to avoid change, it enters our life just the same. And, if you operate outside of your comfort zone there are some really great things that can happen!

  • Personal growth and insights
  • Innovation and progress
  • Building strength and resilience
  • Better agility and flexibility

So what if we bring that same mindset into our roles in our workplaces and lean into the changes that are happening to create new and innovative paths forward? One of the biggest challenges for HR professionals today is creating robust candidate attraction and retention strategies to recruit AND keep top talent. This is universal across company sizes and industries. Without really good people working for us, we can’t fulfill the mission of our organizations. Here’s a few examples of how leaning into change might help set you on a great path forward:

The first ‘change’ challenge | Workforce demands on where and when they work

Your employees are probably looking for hybrid work options, right? They want to be home a couple days a week. It’s less stressful – they can work alternate hours, get their laundry done, help their kids and hang with the dog at lunch. Maybe everyone is still onsite at your company but they are asking for more flexible hours. This requires HR and leadership to recreate their performance management model. How do we redefine performance? We can’t see some of these people every day! Guess what? That’s OK. Build your plan on outcomes. What work is getting done, what is the quality of that work and how often are your managers having 1:1 conversations to check in? We don’t sacrifice accountability and production in exchange for flexibility. We CHANGE our process for how we measure results.

The second “change’ challenge | They want more money!

Employees are calling the shots and employers are competing for talent. Overall, US wages are up 5% in 2022. Inflation is at 8.8%. Nobody is making out in this deal. Our employees have more money in their checks but it’s all going out the door to filling up our gas tanks and buying groceries. So how do you keep up with the ever-changing demands on compensation? The short answer – Clean up your house. How’s your culture? Do your managers and supervisors lead with respect? Are you communicating goals with transparency and frequency? More money is always nice but employees are looking for the basics from you here: to be treated with respect, to be paid fairly (so know where you stand in the market!) and to have a safe, stable workplace where they enjoy going every day.

The third ‘change’ challenge | Amping up your benefits and employee perks!

Most employers can’t just keep throwing money at the retention problem. Once you’ve established that you are paying fair market rates, take a look at your benefits options. Have they been the same over the past 20 years? Medical, dental, 401k only? If so, call your broker STAT. If they don’t help you build a better offering, shop around. The benefits landscape is changing SO fast that we can barely keep up! Remember cafeteria plans? They are coming back…sort of! Smart employers are building in creative benefit options that appeal to different segments of their workforce. Financial wellness benefits (think student loan orgs, credit counseling options, seminars on buying your first house), physical health benefits (EAP’s, meditation apps, child and elder care support solutions) or may even a ‘bank of benefits bucks’ that you give employees annually and they spend it on what matters to them. Personalized benefits options are a game CHANGER.

The fourth ‘change’ challenge | Building the field of dreams!

OK, sorry for the cheesy Kevin Costner movie reference. In this case, the field of dreams is more like the yellow brick road in the Wizard of Oz. What is the EVP for your employees? (hint: employee value prop) If they work for you, what opportunities do they have for advancement and learning? There are currently 56 million Millennials in the workforce. In just five years, they will make up 75% of the global workforce. Gulp. Chew on that one. So what do they want? They want flexibility, transparency and a progressive path that lets them learn and grow. We simply can’t ignore this. We need to be engaging them with interesting work and proactively helping them gain knowledge and skills that will enhance their capabilities. CHANGE how you approach professional development and recognition programs.

Scott Cawood, President of World at Work, sums this up really well. He talks about The New Work Exchange between employees and employers and the major ‘rebalancing’ that is necessary on the employer side of this relationship. We may not like it, but we’ve got to lean in and embrace it. If we don’t, the consequences are significant and costly.


EANE is excited to host Scott Cawood as the Opening Keynote presenter at our 2022 Virtual Total Rewards Conference on Wednesday, July 13. This event will focus on all five aspects of total rewards: Compensation, Well-Being, Benefits, Development and Recognition.