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2nd June 2021

“Go Green (HR) or Go Home?”

HR leaders are in the midst of designing a new future for the HR function and different models or thought processes are required if HR is to remain relevant, going forward.  The default position of many organisations in these times is to please the owner or shareholders (rather than the worker), which decreases the ability of the employee to shape their employment for them and to positively benefit from it.  

The problem

Higher volumes of mergers and acquisitions are leading to cost-cutting and rationalisation projects for HR teams.  Potentially, over-zealous performance management systems based on outputs are detracting from non-performance initiatives; or employers are distancing themselves from their employees using ‘gig economy’ working terms, limiting HR influence and instead of placing more risk with the worker.  Operating against the continued backdrop of economic pressure and instability, the HR function may be forgiven for experiencing some form of an identity crisis at this particular time.

The future of HR

Meanwhile, more enlightened organisations are busy demonstrating an ethical purpose; they are stepping up to their social corporate responsibilities and adding value by providing deeper insights into the culture and behaviour of their teams, to their shareholders.  HR Professionals working with forward-thinking organisations are currently reaping the rewards, working as operators of sustainability goals and progressing the meaning of the HR function to the next (green) level.  Here lies the clue to the wider future of the HR function and the movement to Green HR and the beauty of a sustainability viewpoint is that it can mean many different things, to many different people.  

This may include pureplay eco-friendly ideas such as saving energy, recycling, reducing waste and pollution or general green projects; initiatives that all the team can buy into, participate in and deliver.  More likely, is the design of a bigger employee sustainability project; involving integrating green initiatives with holistic programmes that support employee dedication, engagement, mental well-being and job satisfaction.

Sustainable working

An idea of sustainability can then run through the touchpoints of the colleague journey. Recruitment will use technology to filter applicants and then proceed to an interview process that probes on green values, whilst selling the vision of the organisation to the candidate.  On-boarding and inductions will carry the message of how the company values are geared towards a greener, better future and the sustainability project may be woven into online training and development modules.  Performance reviews may focus less on outputs while adopting a motivational approach based on the colleagues’ contributions towards green targets, tasks and responsibilities.  Finally, the employees’ green contributions could be recognised in salary and bonuses, as well as non-monetary assets such as time off work, recognition and intelligent green incentives.

A programme of sustainability is likely to translate into employees feeling more secure in their roles as a whole.  The company benefits from becoming more selective of their hires, bringing in better candidates who are more aligned to the values of the business than ever before.  Inevitably, employees aligned with the values of the company will work better as a team with improved open communication and synergies.

There will always be people and employment issues for HR Business Partners, however, a green, sustainability plan could be the key to taking the HR function within your company to the next level.  Lighthouse is here to help, so please call 0300 303 5228 to discuss any points raised or general support for your HR team.

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