Worldwide and spanning all industries, proactive HR is vital for cultivating a thriving organisational culture.
In contrast to the typical “reactive” HR approach – where businesses wait for problems to arise before putting new policies and procedures in place – proactive HR seeks to anticipate and mitigate future issues.
As such, proactive HR allows organisations to develop strategic plans for recruiting more qualified candidates and design management practices that keep employees motivated and engaged. This not only raises an organisation’s productivity, but positively impacts their vision and prepares their people for the future.
A reactive HR strategy, on the other hand, often results in HR chaos, as businesses and HR managers are constantly “putting out fires”. This can lead to a host of problems, such as poor hiring choices, high staff turnover, overworked employees, increased expenses, and the potential for grievances and fines.
Also, if these problems are left to fester for too long, they can escalate into large scale conflicts that can bring a thriving organisation to its knees.
In this article, you will learn the steps involved in developing a proactive HR strategy for your business.
We will cover:
- Fostering a positive company culture
- Increasing employee engagement
- Organisational strategy and purpose
- Core processes and systems for team management
- Manager and leader readiness to resetting company culture
- Instilling a sense of purpose & trust in employees
- Avoiding and managing conflict
- Creating a performance appraisal system
- Communicating clearly and openly to avoid large scale conflicts
- Employing values-based leadership
- Increasing employee empowerment
- Retaining top talent
- Using Company values to guide decision-making
Let’s get started…
Fostering a Positive Company Culture
Fostering a healthy workplace culture is vital for employee engagement and retention and should be part of a proactive HR strategy. Although workplace culture may not seem directly related to HR, many experts and industry leaders believe that workplace culture is what separates the most successful companies from the rest.
In fact, organisations with stronger cultures outperform their competitors financially and are generally more successful. Moreover, 92% of leaders from successful companies believe that workplace culture and financial performance are closely interrelated.
This is because a positive culture in the workplace is essential for fostering a sense of pride and ownership among employees. When people feel proud to work for their employer, they work hard to create opportunities that benefit their organisation, which leads to better business outcomes.
Furthermore, a strong, positive, and well-communicated workplace culture helps organisations retain top talent and attract the best candidates who share the Company’s values and vision.
Therefore, fostering a positive company culture is a key step to take in developing a proactive HR strategy and improving employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention for better business performance.
There are five aspects you need to consider in developing a healthy workplace culture. These are:
- Increasing employee engagement
- Implementing a clear organisational strategy & purpose
- Implementing core HR processes & systems
- Resetting Company culture
- Getting your employees aligned with your Company vision.
Let’s take a look at each of these aspects in more detail.
Increasing Employee Engagement
Engaged employees are those who are “involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace”. If an organisation’s employees are engaged, they are much more likely to produce better business outcomes because they are more likely to feel personally invested in the organisation’s success.
However, Gallup research institute has found that, on average, only 15% of employees worldwide are considered “engaged”.
So, what can organisations do to increase engagement?
Here are eight things you can do to drive employee engagement by helping your employees feel more connected and get more purpose and meaning from their work:
- Get to know them. Spending time with, and getting to know your employees, is easy and effective.
- Provide them with tools for success. Providing your employees with a strong foundation for tasks, is a good step towards raising engagement levels.
- Allow them to grow. Giving them the opportunity to show off their skills and room to branch out to do their jobs the best way they know how encourages growth.
- Recognise your team and their hard work. A manager recognising and acknowledging a job well done is a huge motivator in developing employee engagement.
- Encourage teamwork. When a large account or significant client needs your services, developing a strong team gives them a greater sense of purpose.
- Listen to and act on employee feedback. Listening to what your customers have to say is important, but so is listening to your employees. Having regular meetings to determine what areas of your workplace needs improvement is an important part of engagement.
- Motivate, inspire, and coach your employees. Not only should your employees understand the scope of their work, but, as their manager, so should you. Workplace tone is set by managerial staff. A good way to achieve a positive workplace tone is to be more than their boss; be the best coach they could have.
- Encourage personal development. Companies who retain employees with specific skill sets aren’t likely to come across people who only work there to receive their pay.
If you follow these steps, your employees are more likely to be actively engaged, which leads to numerous benefits, including:
- More highly motivated workers
- More effective leadership
- Lower absenteeism
- Lower turnover
- Fewer injuries
- Higher customer sales
- Higher productivity / profitability
Organisational Strategy and Purpose
One of the most important driving factors of positive workplace culture is getting employees on board with organisational strategy and purpose.
When team members can relate to your organisation’s values, vision, mission, and purpose and share these on a personal level, they are more likely to derive purpose and meaning from their work, improving workplace culture.
That’s why it’s important to clearly define and communicate your organisation’s goals, values, and beliefs, to steer Company culture through shared assumptions and group norms.
You can do this by implementing an organisational strategy that provides clarity and focus for collective action and decision-making based on values and purpose.
Core Processes and Systems for Team Management
Many companies don’t have a dedicated HR team or particular structure, which can lead to conflict and issues with workplace culture.
However, even without an HR department, there are many things’ businesses can do to improve team management, which, ultimately, helps to foster positive Company culture.
The most important step to take is to implement core HR systems and processes for proactive team management.
This includes defining and communicating a team-based organisation structure (hierarchy), clearly outlining role expectations, and ensuring safe and open communication between employees and managers.
That way, everybody knows where they stand, and everybody knows their expectations and responsibilities, which leads to a more productive, efficient, positive workplace.
Manager and Leader Readiness for Resetting Company Culture
One thing that often stands in the way of fostering a positive Company culture is opposition to change, especially among an organisation’s leadership team. This comes down to several things, including fear of the unknown or a lack of skills or confidence to initiate and lead through change.
However, staying stuck in a negative or neutral Company culture can be detrimental to an organisation in the long run and cause issues like lower employee morale, reduced efficiency and a disruptive work environment.
That’s why it’s important to encourage transformational leadership, where the leadership team takes a proactive role in changing organisational culture. This can be done by encouraging, inspiring, and motivating employees to innovate and create change that will help grow and shape the future success of the Company with positive impacts, such as:
- New business opportunities – New opportunities are born out of the ability to embrace change.
- Encouraging business innovation – Employees who feel that their ideas will be considered by a manager or business owner will be more willing to think creatively, helping a business grow. Organisations that are adept at handling and embracing change, foster an innovative workplace.
- Increased organisational efficiency – Change can increase the efficiency of work processes, which can also mean customers and employees are more satisfied.
- Improved employee attitudes and morale – A philosophical or people change in an organisation can positively effect employee attitudes and morale. A change in workplace philosophy, such as implementing a casual dress code, may be welcomed by employees. When a micro-manager is replaced with one who is open to new ideas, employees may feel that they have more input regarding their role.
Instilling a Sense of Purpose & Trust in Employees
The way your Company communicates its vision and how aligned employees are with it can positively affect their actions or be detrimental to your business.
One of the main reasons employees fail to engage in a Company’s vision is if the vision isn’t clearly communicated or if an organisation’s words and actions aren’t aligned. This can break trust and lead to a lack of motivation and personal investment.
While employees who feel a sense of personal alignment with their organisation often go to great lengths to produce good business outcomes, a lack of employee alignment can cause an array of issues, including:
- A lack of motivation
- Lower employee productivity
- Lower team performance
- Confusion among employees
- Organisational silos
- Duplicate work
- Missed targets
- Poor employee experience
- Barriers to employee empowerment
- Lower employee engagement and retention rates
- Difficulties in attracting top talent.
That’s why it’s crucial to instil a sense of purpose and trust in employees so they feel a strong personal alignment with Company goals and are more likely to contribute to your organisation’s success.
There are several things you can do to get employees on board with your Company vision. These include:
- Tying it to your organisational processes
- Relating goals back to your vision
- Communicating your vision clearly and succinctly and relating it to the specific scenario at hand
- Ensuring your words align with your actions and your actions reflect your brand’s vision
If you can get employees more aligned with your Company vision by giving them a sense of purpose and belonging, they are far more likely to be engaged at work and happier in general.
Proactively Managing Conflict
The second key thing you need to consider when developing a proactive HR strategy for your business is proactively managing workplace conflict.
Unresolved workplace conflict is detrimental to an organisation’s operations and, thus, has a negative impact on productivity and profitability. This includes conflict between individuals, teams, or between members of staff and leadership teams.
Unless conflicts are proactively managed and mitigated, they can quickly result in negative business outcomes, such as:
- Employees refusing to work
- Customers receiving poor customer service, which may lead them to go elsewhere
- Destruction of the Company’s reputation
- Disputes eating into results.
However, not all conflict is necessary “bad”. If organisations create a healthy conflict environment, they can leverage them to improve business operations and adapt and grow in the right direction.
Therefore, adopting a strategy to proactively manage conflict and create a healthy conflict environment is essential for reaching better business outcomes.
For example, a healthy conflict environment can:
- Open your eyes to new ideas
- Give all team members the opportunity to verbalize their needs
- Teach flexibility and the ability to listen
- Lead to innovative ideas and solutions
- Help to set limits and practice emotional control.
But how can we go about proactively managing workplace conflict and creating a healthy conflict environment?
The two most effective steps you can take are putting in place a performance appraisal system and implementing clear and open communication.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these.
Creating a Performance Appraisal System
Having a performance appraisal system is crucial for understanding and managing team members’ individual skills, strengths, goals, and weaknesses, which can inform and guide your decision-making in employee matters.
Performance appraisals (or performance reviews) involve standardized assessments to measure employees’ work behaviours. This allows you to provide more constructive feedback and can be used to create an individual development plan, that sets out specific goals and objectives for each employee.
Without this kind of personalised feedback, employees may be left wondering how they are doing and what their manager really thinks about them, which, in turn, can lead to dissatisfaction, misunderstanding, and conflict.
By knowing and understanding people’s differences and how they like to work, you can pre-emptively and proactively manage potential conflict and create a healthy conflict environment.
Communicate Clearly and Openly to Avoid Large Scale Conflicts
Large scale conflicts are often the result of minor issues that have been left unaddressed and unresolved, leading them to escalate.
The best strategy to combat large scale conflicts is to put in place a clear and open channel of communication so any problems or grievances are brought to light quickly. That way, you can understand issues as they arise and put constructive measures in place to resolve them before they escalate.
There are several things you can do to improve communication in your organisation, including:
- Immediately addressing issues, openly – When a conflict arises, quick action should be taken to resolve it amongst the team, instead of ignoring or avoiding it.
- Setting clear expectations and managing them– Both in terms of what you expect from others and what they expect of you – is one of the most important things a team can do to encourage better communication. If your employees know what’s expected of them, it’ll alleviate team-tension and they’ll feel more comfortable.
- Building active listening skills – You may be hearing what your colleagues have to say, but are you actually listening?! People’s minds often wander when others are speaking, and they don’t truly absorb what’s been said. With the application of good listening skills, conflict can actually be helpful. “Differing opinions and ideas can lead to great innovations,” said Lindsay Anvik, a business coach specializing in leadership and productivity. “Take the consistent stance of being open to someone whose opinions differ from yours. This allows you to see things from a new light.”
- Recognising and respecting personal differences – Opposing viewpoints, behaviours and work styles can cause a lot of arguments and misunderstandings in a team.If personality clashes are the root cause of a lot of your team’s problems, working on being more aware of the differences in how you view a situation, will be a huge help.
Employ Values-Based Leadership
The third aspect of proactive HR is employing a values-based leadership system.
When employees don’t feel valued, they are more likely to leave the Company, feel disempowered, and be less engaged/less motivated, which leads to a toxic Company culture.
These issues usually don’t arise overnight but are the result of employees feeling undervalued over a long period of time. This leads to negative outcomes and behaviours like:
- A loss of interest and morale
- Resistance to change
- Decreased cooperation
- Reduced productivity
- Increased staff turnover
The best way to avoid these issues and help your employees feel valued is to employ a values-based leadership approach.
Values-based leadership is when your personal values and Company values are so closely aligned that your values guide your decision-making in all situations. That way, you can empower those around you by modelling shared organisational values and inspire others to do the same.
This approach ensures that you’re always doing the right thing and doing the best you can, which, in turn, makes it easier for your team to get on board with what you stand for. This positive feedback loop leads to:
- Increased employee empowerment
- Retention of top talent
- Alignment of Company values and behaviours with ideal Company culture
Let’s take a closer look at how values-based leadership can benefit your organisation and the strategies you can use to employ a values-based system.
Increase Employee Empowerment
One of the key benefits of values-based leadership is increased employee empowerment.
Employees who feel empowered tend to be more motivated, show greater trust in management, and display improved creativity.
There are many things you can do to ingrain employee empowerment in your Company culture.
Here are nine specific strategies to get started:
- Delegate to develop – Delegating to lessen “drudge work” misses an opportunity to strengthen and empower your team. Instead, delegating with the intent to grow and develop capabilities and responsibilities of your employees, is a much more powerful approach
- Set clear expectations – Define ‘freedom to act’ boundaries for your employees by setting clear expectations (but not micromanaging them) – this will give them permission to make decisions while ensuring they‘re in line with Company goals
- Provide necessary resources and give regular feedback
- Stay in touch
- When possible, include your employees in decision-making and goal-setting
- Communicate organisational vision
- Recognise employees for hard work – showing appreciation for work well done makes it more likely that they’ll do it again (and better!)
Retain Top Talent
Another benefit of employing a values-based leadership approach is that you’re far more likely to recruit and retain top talent.
Employees with top-level skills and capabilities are highly sought after and are usually in a favourable position when it comes to negotiating work terms. As such, organisations with a lacking workplace culture often struggle to recruit talent and keep their best people on board. That’s why it’s important to proactively consider and design your employee retention strategy, which usually reflects a values-based leadership approach.
Here are 12 specific employee retention strategies that you can use to build a strong team :
- Establish an exciting organisational vision
- Be transparent about problems and solutions
- Give your employees a voice by conducting pulse surveys
- Define your leadership style to build trust and connection
- Share company success stories
- Encourage managers to form ‘mentor-like’ relationships with high performers
- Invest in learning and development
- Ensure senior leaders are accessible and visible to their people
- Make employee wellbeing a priority
- Ensure there are channels which enable people to raise issues in confidence
- Treat those having to leave with compassion and humanity
- Reinforce Company values and their role in decision-making
Use Company Values to Guide Decision-Making
One of the most fundamental aspects of values-based leadership is using your Company values to guide decision-making. Unless your values and behaviours are closely aligned, you’ll struggle to reach your desired Company culture.
So, it’s important to pinpoint your organisational values and use them as a benchmark to measure decisions and actions against. Values-based leadership is the idea that leaders should draw upon their own and others’ values — including those established for the organisation — for direction and motivation. At its core, values-based leadership philosophy asserts that people are mostly motivated by values and live according to these.
Generally, a values-based leadership approach focuses on the positive development and empowerment of all team members, which could lead to organisational decisions like:
- Promoting flexibility and facilitating collaboration
- Creating a culture of employee wellbeing
- Having a clear purpose and values
- Focusing on personal development
When your Company values and behaviours are aligned with your desired Company culture, your employees will be more satisfied, which leads to better business outcomes.
Having a proactive HR strategy is the key to cultivating a positive workplace and high-performance team culture, which are essential for a thriving organisation.
There are several things you can do to transform your HR approach into a future-proof proactive model centred around your people. This includes fostering a positive Company culture, proactively managing conflict, and employing a values-based leadership system.
If you follow the steps outlined in this article, you’ll be well-equipped to put better HR management strategies in place or book some time with Jacqui to see how she can help – [email protected]; www.proactivepeopleperformance.co.nz.