Finding and empowering the right people is key to getting any company on a path of positive impact. In her article in The Atlantic, Christine Bader explains how for companies that are trying to change, a smart and flexible HR department is crucial.
This begins, says Bader, with recruiting. Baby Boomer retirement is already causing angst: The Society for Human Resource Management reports that by next year one-third of the U.S. labor force will be over 50 years old, up from 27 percent in 2007. And given the interests and demands of the next generation, companies can’t simply replace what they lose. According to a Deloitte survey earlier this year, 47 percent of Millennials believe that the “purpose of business is to ‘improve society/protect the environment.’”
Bringing in these bright young people who will help a business change for the better is a key role of HR. But how can HR drive positive change after these new employees are in the door? Bader provides three ways:
1. Get out of the way.
Seemingly pointless processes and paperwork can stifle positive change. In some ways, notes Bader, the best thing HR can do to enable change is to do less. Bader gives the example of Tom DiDonato, the head of HR at Lear, an auto-parts manufacturer. DiDonato did away with the longstanding practice of basing compensation on performance reviews, realizing that the emphasis on pay created stress and stifled innovation. Instead the company bases pay on market conditions, and awards equity and promotions for good performance.
2. Help the company do good.
This means channeling the company’s talent and resources to help both its bottom line and society at large. Bader provides the example of Eileen Fisher, a clothing company that recently launched a plan to improve the environmental and social sustainability of its entire supply chain—from cutting waste and chemical use to training supply chain workers in labor rights.
Implementing such a comprehensive vision requires intensive cross-disciplinary cooperation. This is accomplished through Eileen Fisher’s famously collaborative culture, which is carefully nurtured by HR—or as they call it, “People and Culture.”
3. Fight bias.
“Unconscious bias” is front of mind for many HR execs today, and they’re taking steps to combat it. Google developed and implemented a successful program to help employees identify their deeply held perceptions and counter them. This helps employees feel more safe, which causes them to perform better…and this increased awareness of bias can also carry over to their lives outside the office.
Given this country’s racial and gender disparities, writes Bader, fighting bias, conscious or unconscious, might be the best thing that HR can do for any individual employee and company, and society more broadly.
Originally on TheAtlantic.com