How to Cause the Effect in HR

HR is well-positioned to create effective change within organizations. Instituting initiatives so that employees aren’t reaching a level of “need” before their employer realizes it can help avoid running the risk of too little, too late. So can doing what is right, not because it’s an obligation but because it is the right thing to do. This is my interpretation of what “causing the effect” looks like. Your interpretation may be entirely different. If you are reconditioning your thought process to take into consideration what is ahead and not overlook the obvious and fundamental needs of employees as humans, you’re well on your way to generating the curve and causing the effect.

As successful sales strategists know, predicting what consumers need before consumers know they need it can be highly profitable. Generating the curve goes beyond a reactive approach to the way we do things. It means predicting how we can successfully meet workplace needs that may not be known yet by leveraging our HR expertise and analytical tools like research and trends, then deploying those findings ahead of deficiencies.

An example might be a parent who keeps a first-aid kit and two-way communication device on a child’s bike because the parent anticipates based on individual experience (expertise) and knowledge of the incidence of bicycle accidents (observed trends) that the child will need it. Most parents will keep first-aid kits at home, but a child who’s injured while riding a bike around the block will have to travel home before receiving first aid from a parent. While a child might disagree about whether a first-aid kit needs to be attached to the bike, the one time it is needed, it may be the next best thing to a hug from a parent.

Taking this approach to the workplace, we can look at fundamental human needs. Most of us are familiar with psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Human needs are largely innate. They may look different over time and shift based on current events, but in the end, they are still the same. For example, we see how employee priorities shift around these needs, such as the need for security and esteem (leaving employers for higher pay or better career advancement opportunities) or the need for love and belonging (empathy). By embracing this loose concept, combined with the notion that “history repeats itself,” we can leverage these elements to not just stay ahead of the curve, but actually create it and thereby cause the effect.

During the pandemic, some employers caused the effect as they demonstrated empathy for employees by taking into consideration things employees may not have realized they needed, such as providing meal delivery gift cards or treating employees and their family members (many of them stuck at home due to the pandemic) to pizzas, gift boxes or thank you cards. This was not because employees demanded these gestures; rather, the need was predicted by their employers.

However, not all efforts to cause the effect need to be tangible. As a hearing-impaired person, I know my limitations, but I don’t often think of what I need. Recently, I came across an employer who demonstrates foresight regarding this in their onboarding practices. They ask new hires what their preferred method of communication is. This is one example of an intangible effort to respond to what employees need.  

As you learn what generating the curve looks like to you in order to cause the effect, keep in mind that fundamental human needs are constant. Then, think about what is relevant. For example, at present, we are experiencing a housing shortage in the U.S., inflation, high interest rates and a roughly 9 percent increase in the cost of living. Certainly, financial security is always going to be a fundamental need. What can employers provide ahead of these concerns, besides the obvious solutions like pay increases and financial planning benefits? Some examples of ideas to help employees with these stressors may include making pretax contributions to employees’ defined contribution plans or offering job loss mortgage insurance benefits for employees and their significant others.

Political and constitutional rights are high-stakes debates as Russia continues to invade Ukraine and other unrest develops around the world. What can HR do to recognize the feelings of uncertainty and instability or the current threats to safety, security, and freedom that employees struggle with, today or in the future? Mental health counseling is certainly one option, but another idea is building a sense of community through employee networks, resource groups, or team huddles, where employees can discuss current events and other topics that may be on their minds while working, even if they are not necessarily work-related.  

If you want to know more about causing the effect within your own organization, we’d love to help! Give us a call or send an e-mail. We’re also available by chat. It’s one of the most valued benefits of SHRM membership!

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