This week, it’s hardly impossible to resist commenting on the latest Atlantic article. After an endless stream of unforgiving, HR-bashing pieces, Christine Bader offered a different approach. “To Do Good in the World, Get a Better HR Department” – suggested the author. This bold title, as well as Bader’s approach, are interesting for several reasons. It’s difficult not to be intrigued when something so different from the usual (negative) narrative around corporate HR instantly makes perfect sense.
The article’s title itself does something very interesting: it links the seemingly remote disciplines of sustainability/ social good and human resources. Christine Bader says “for companies that are trying to change—whether to become better corporate citizens or simply more successful—a smart and flexible HR department is crucial”. What matters here is, firstly, that in the current business climate, most companies ARE trying to change.
In the old, profit focused paradigm, either the people suffered, or the environment suffered, or the consumers ended up dissatisfied. Consequently, the efforts towards “being better corporate citizens” and “being more successful” are increasingly become indistinguishable…. but what’s the role of HR? As observed by Bader, a focus on a more sustainable, ethical and socially responsible enterprise might start with “lofty goals of a visionary founder or chief executive” but at some point, someone will unavoidable ask: “do we have the right people to pull that off?”.
In this context, HR and recruiting become “the muscle of every company”. According to a Delloite survey, quoted by the article, 47% of Millennials stated that the goal of business is to ‘improve society/protect the environment’. This suggests that there is an army of motivated potential workers out there – choosing the right ones can have tremendous contribution towards developing a more holistic and meaningful approach to company’s success. We’ve established that on the path to responsible, more ethical business, the role of HR and attracting the right talent are essential.
But with the great benefits that employing ethics-driven Millennials can provide come greater demands. Millennials, and increasingly all employees, want to feel valued, feel the sense of pride and purpose in their work and have manager’s attention – feel that the company is actively investing in their satisfaction and wellbeing. Rightly so – a sustainable enterprise cares about its people. Here’s the trick – even if the executives are primarily money motivates and feel the temptation to maximize productivity without giving much back (except for monetary reward) – they can no longer get away with it.
Employee advocacy becomes an important promotional tool, and on the flipside, if employees are unhappy, they are ready to voice their complaints via social media and professional online networks. In this new reality, HR can play the role of a catalyst for a positive change, communicating directly with the C-suite – and the company leaders should embrace this dialog. HR has a unique opportunity to strengthen their perceived importance for any business and push for innovative solutions for increasing employee motivation and performance.