Proactive vs Reactive People Strategies

Liz Williams

How can we get ahead with our people strategies to ensure retention and engagement, without jumping through hoops to get there?

As HR professionals, we are often called to action when the battlelines are well and truly already drawn. For many organisations, the day-to-day people solutions take up so much time, that we can forget to take a minute to get proactive; failing to focus on the needs of our most significant business investment and asset – our people. So, what does proactive HR look like, and how do we find the value in prioritising it.

Proactive HR looks like building culture, processes and frameworks that support our people to ‘know what good looks like’, ‘how to get there’ and ‘how to enjoy the journey to get there’.

Is there a magic formula that works for all employees and all businesses – we wish. The reality is that all businesses and people are not the same. They are starting from different baselines, experiences, skills and attributes, demographics and have different goals, patterns of communication and drivers. So, how do we solve for our people specifically.

The simple answer is that we get to know them and what drives them. You don’t build a stadium and then ask the fans what they are going to use it for? You take the time to research all the different uses and then work out how you can best service the needs of all the attendees. If you already have the stadium and it feels empty – you need the courage to put your hand up and say you missed the mark and work with the fans to solve it.

When we ask employees about what matters to them most from an employer (or leader), we consistently get something a little warm and fuzzy. It is not that they are always right, have the answers to every problem, give pay-rises like Oprah on a Christmas Special or even that they encourage you to take every Friday off for ‘Life Admin’ (although for some these things would be amazing). It is more often the sense of care, humility and respect that employees are looking for or speak to, when they talk about great leaders or businesses.

How we deliver that for each of them is different depending on their personality and work/life experience (the factor that led them to who they are in the room/ workforce right this minute). However, the overall sentiment is the same, employees work harder for employers that they feel are genuinely trying to make them and their work lives better. It is that sentiment of ‘I work hard for them because I can see and know they work hard for me’.

So, from a People Strategies perspective what does this mean. It means that many of our conversations and actions with employees should be highlighting the same things, we ‘value’ you and are ‘supporting and empowering’ you to be the best that you can be. If you are showing up for us, we are showing up for you. The core component of that is that you care enough to ask what your employees value most in their work, so that you can align your people strategies.

This doesn’t mean that you lay out the red carpet and hire ‘Beyonce’ for the Christmas party – it means that you consider/ consult with them, when you are making decisions. There is a difference between being told something without a ‘why’ and being asked something and then giving the reasons for the outcome in the context of the question.

The key take away is get to know your people priorities. Proactive People Strategies save you in the long run.

Here are some steps you can take to prioritize proactive HR:

Understanding Employee Needs: Take the time to understand the unique needs, preferences, and aspirations of your workforce. This can be achieved through surveys, focus groups, or one-on-one discussions.

Building a Supportive Culture: Create a culture where employees feel valued, respected, and empowered. This involves promoting open communication, providing opportunities for growth and development, and recognizing and rewarding achievements.

Investing in Training and Development: Offer training and development programs that help employees enhance their skills and advance in their careers. This not only benefits the individual employee but also contributes to the overall success of the organization.

Implementing Flexible Work Arrangements: Recognize that employees have diverse work-life needs and preferences. Be open to discussing flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options, flexible hours, or compressed work weeks to accommodate different lifestyles and schedules.

Promoting Work-Life Balance: Encourage a healthy work-life balance by promoting policies and initiatives that support employee well-being. This can include wellness programs, mental health resources, and policies that encourage employees to take time off when needed.

Fostering Meaningful Relationships: Help employees build meaningful connections with their colleagues and managers. Encourage collaboration, teamwork, and mentorship opportunities that foster a sense of belonging and camaraderie.

Regular Feedback and Recognition: Provide regular feedback and recognition to employees for their contributions and achievements. This not only reinforces positive behavior but also helps employees understand how their work contributes to the overall success of the organization.

Continuous Improvement: Continuously evaluate and refine your HR strategies based on feedback and performance data. Stay agile and adaptable to changing needs and trends in the workforce.

By implementing these proactive HR strategies, you can create a work environment where employees feel valued, supported, and motivated to contribute their best efforts to the organization.

About The Author
Liz Williams

We welcome Liz’s  passion and understanding of HR functions, providing the best business outcomes through employing, mentoring and retaining a resilient workforce.

Liz has worked on major projects for NBN and the Victorian Government, her knowledge and professional approach will complement our already well established and highly regarded HR Team.

Outside of work Liz is a keen netballer and the busy mum of three boys!

For more useful information, follow Liz Williams on LinkedIn.

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