Human Resources has traditionally been a division of a business that has remained out of the spotlight, seen as a process that works quietly in the background.
In some cases, because of the division’s very ‘under the radar’ nature, HR has been overlooked as an important element of the business’ structure. While sometimes this decision is attributed to budget, other times it appears to be a lack of education around the importance of HR. Thinx is a case in point and alongside this; it is a clear case study for why having a HR function is imperative.
HR professionals are incredibly adept at supporting with recruitment and retention, staff management, business culture, diversity, equity and inclusion, employee satisfaction and, of course, being integral in finding a solution to workplace issues. No matter how big or small your company, HR functions will always be necessary.
A new-found respect for HR
In March 2020, businesses were thrown into turmoil, facing situations no leader had ever faced before. Overnight, teams were forced to work remotely, and businesses lost huge sums of revenue. In the following months, mental health began to decline, redundancies spiked, 11.7 million people were furloughed and leaders were leaning on HR more than ever before in an attempt to keep their heads above water and to ensure that their teams felt supported in this incredibly turbulent time.
As said very well by Brian Kropp, group vice president and chief of research for Gartner, the pandemic made teams realise that they needed “to put the ‘human’ back into human resources”. Senior leaders needed to understand that the people in the company were, and still are, the integral cornerstone in what makes them successful, and if they weren’t willing to invest in a department that prioritised the needs, wants and emotions of those people then they were on a path to demise.
And of course, this spans further than just the fallout of the pandemic. In the last few years alone, the world has witnessed huge cultural shifts which have changed the way businesses function forever. From the Black Lives Matter movement to #MeToo, from a greater emphasis on and understanding of the need for diverse teams to creating more inclusive policies and processes – HR lies at the core of ensuring that businesses make positive and meaningful change both internally for their teams and externally for the communities in which they serve.
What now? In 2022, despite the ongoings of the past few years, it was found that still, only three
FTSE100 companies have HR representation at board level. While it could be argued that because 81 of the 100 report to employ HR Directors (or equivalent, such as Chief People Officers), that this is enough, it categorically isn’t.
Having HR representation at board level first and foremost signals to the rest of the team’s employees that their wellbeing, career progression and workplace satisfaction is taken seriously by those at the top of the ladder. It showcases that leaders believe people are integral to the success of the company and that their voices will be heard.
Secondly, it ensures that all divisions of the company have the chance to be involved in making change. Whether it’s supporting the company in becoming more inclusive, more environmentally friendly, better at managing mental and physical health or finding more efficient ways to enable teams to work remotely or flexibly – no one is left out of the conversation and efforts to make change are a company-wide feat.
It’s time for more businesses to step up and ‘put their money where their mouth is’, ensuring that HR not only has a space at the table, but has the capabilities to drive and create a more positive workplace.