What HR is Worried About

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Adam Turteltaub PhotoPost by Adam Turteltaub

I just spent two and a half days exhibiting for the SCCE at the 2022 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conference. It was good to meet with HR executives interested in expanding their compliance skills. Many of them wear compliance as a second hat and are still learning their roles.

While there I explored the vast exhibit hall that comes with a conference of 15,000 attendees. As I checked out the hundreds of booths it was interesting, and more than a bit alarming, to see the number of solutions designed to increase engagement, assist with employee mental health issues, and enable employers to lend workers money in advance of their paychecks.

It was, perhaps, the most vivid demonstration of our unusual times and what workers are going through. Years of working remotely, coupled with waves of resignations have clearly left many employees disconnected. They still have a job with a company, but many don’t feel a strong sense of attachment.

That can be expensive in dollars: lower productivity, more turnover, higher recruiting costs and training of ever more new hires. It can also be expensive in other ways. Think of the lost value of a corporate culture with so many detached employees. Even for employees who are committed to the organization, it is hard to be surrounded by those who are only interested in a paycheck.

Couple that with a stressed workforce, both financially and emotionally, and we live and work in volatile times. Stress has been shown to lead to bad decision making, a grave compliance risk always. People under stress lack the cool rationality we need and tend to be more impulsive.

Financial pressures, no doubt exacerbated by inflation, increase that stress and likely lead to distraction and more short-term thinking.

This is the world we are operating in, and these are the hearts and minds we are hoping to win over. Doing so is now exponentially harder, but it is not hopeless.

In fact, compliance and ethics programs may be better placed than most to address these workplace ills. By emphasizing the company values and their role in tying people together we can help increase engagement. Giving people a sense of stability can help them feel more secure and have greater confidence in their abilities long term to provide for their families.

Embracing this perspective could encourage others to stop thinking of compliance and ethics as one more thing on people’s plate and start thinking of it as a counterbalance to the woes of the world and the workplace.

It could make the SHRM exhibit hall a bit less scary to walk through.