- HR Director
If I had £10 for every company statement that says – “Our employees are our greatest asset” I would be a millionaire. It’s the sort of phrase that trips off the tongue, ticks a box, and looks good on the CSR section of an annual report. But many companies don’t walk the walk when it comes to genuinely valuing the people who work for them.
As the HR Director of a large law firm, this is a topic close to my heart. The root issue is trust – or to be more accurate – lack of it. Traditionally, organisations expected employees to earn trust before they could gain certain freedoms. We all know the story of a new recruit having to work in the office initially, before they are permitted to work from home.
Let’s turn that on its head. Showing trust from the outset can foster deeper loyalty and create your most committed employees.
Anderson Strathern had a situation recently that showed this to be true. A colleague with caring responsibilities for elderly parents was juggling a lot. Her line manager said to her: “We value your skills, so do what you need to do regarding your parents. Flex your hours to suit your family needs, and we will do our utmost to accommodate you.”
The colleague felt valued, supported and appreciated the assistance given by HR and her colleagues when needed. She told me she had really benefitted from joining the carers’ group set up at the firm which allowed her to discuss issues with colleagues who are also carers. She was keen to share this experience as part of our Carer Positive assessment – which we passed with flying colours.
The result is a skilled, experienced and valued employee retained within our workforce and whose loyalty to the firm is in no doubt.
If your organisation is considering how to retain and attract the best people, there are five key points to bear in mind.
Listen to what your people want. You may THINK you know, but make sure you ask them. What is important to one individual may be less so to another. Take every opportunity to demonstrate that everyone is valued.
Next up – be honest about what you can deliver. Any flexibility on the part of your organisation on behalf of an employee must be aligned to the overarching company culture and rooted in realism. Over-promising creates disappointment and reduces trust, the opposite of what you want to achieve.
A ‘super agile’ employer is attractive to today’s workforce – and is something Anderson Strathern is already delivering – but try to avoid gimmicks. I heard about an organisation offering employees the chance to finish early on Fridays but it didn’t mention that office-based staff were expected to stay beyond that or that whilst the offer was there, most couldn’t benefit due to workloads. Granted, it sounds good but is it fair?
Now more than ever, when there might be four generations in the workforce, it’s important to find out what people want at different stages of their working life – and make no assumptions. The key point is to be respectful of everyone and listen carefully.
My final point brings us back to trust. Recruit well and make trust your starting point – from day one. That is one of the biggest changes you can make to demonstrate that you truly value people. On that point, actions really do speak louder than words.