Celebrating International HR Day: 3 People-First Strategies to Create a Brighter Future for Our Workforce

Today we celebrate International Human Resources Day; this year’s theme is “HR Shaping the new Future.” We honor HR professionals who lead change and work to improve employees’ professional lives. The powerful and inspirational theme resonates with our dynamic community of clients, candidates, and me. “It is about our role as a profession in leading change to improve working lives,” IHRD event organizers explain. “Leading a future that will be more inclusive, flexible, participative will benefit workers, organizations, and society.”

The future we are working towards at TRANSEARCH is one I am committed to, both personally and professionally. It is about empowering individuals to flourish in roles where their unique identities and values are embraced, their perspectives championed, where their diverse backgrounds drive innovation; and where having inclusive cultures is the bedrock for solving tomorrow’s challenges.

Yes, the goals are altruistic, but they are also realistic. We already know the impact of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, and Belonging (DE&I) initiatives. It impacts bottom lines, stimulates innovation, and aligns with the ideals and principles both employees and consumers hold dear.

  • Companies with more gender and ethnic diversity were 25% and 36% more likely to outperform their peers financially
  • Inclusive companies have 2.3 times higher cash flow, are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders and are 70% more likely to capture new markets
  • Companies with progressive cultures perform 200% better than competitors
  • 61% of employees believe diversity and inclusion strategies are beneficial and essential
  • 38% of consumers are more likely to trust brands with diversity in their ads

What can we do as business leaders to ensure our organizations, people, and society thrive in the future?

1. Foster an inclusive workplace culture and tap into your employees’ diverse talents

I agree with Tony Bond, the EVP and Chief Innovation Officer at Great Place to Work, who wrote that “driving innovation requires leaders to adopt the stance that there exists an unlimited reservoir of creativity within their employee population.”

“Speak up” cultures cultivate communities of belonging, which is crucial to engagement. Research shows that employees in “speak up” cultures are 3.5 times more likely to contribute their full innovative potential. According to a Qualtrics study of nearly 12,000 workers, only 20% of employees who feel they don’t belong are engaged versus 91% of those who think they do. Qualtrics scientist Thivia Mogan notes that “treating employees with respect, taking action on their feedback, and recognizing their contributions are ways to show employees that they matter.”

Ensure your team members work in a genuinely inclusive workplace, one where people with different backgrounds and abilities feel welcomed and valued for their contributions. Individuals are actively listened to and have a safe, trusting environment to put forth novel ideas, receive feedback and ask thought-provoking questions.

Promote employee resource (ERG) and affinity groups. You might be surprised how many people are rare stamp collectors or avid gamers. Please give them a tool to connect and build community. Establish robust team member recognition programs and share announcements across multiple platforms. Provide people from underrepresented groups opportunities to be sponsors, mentors, and organization ambassadors. You will shore up your inclusive culture and ensure your employment brand will attract creative people to join your team.

2. Commit to diverse and inclusive talent recruitment programs

Around the year 2050, the United States will have no ethnic majority; rather, it will be a country of ‘minority-majority.’ Our future is one where our population will be vibrant with diversity. Successful organizations must reflect that in every facet.

Embracing diversity requires intentional cultural work. Offering enhanced training and development opportunities to folks at each level of the organization is imperative. Establish meaningful referral bonuses. People who feel supported at work will recommend the company to their friends and former co-workers.

Your Talent Acquisition practices must be skillfully targeted and leverage specialized techniques and outreach strategies. As technology evolves, we encourage you to maximize the incredible power of algorithms, such as adding details to the Boolean criteria like “veterans in green energy” or listing the names of alumni associations that cater to LGBTQ+ members. These initiatives will significantly increase your chances of recruiting more diverse candidates whose competencies and expertise align with the roles you’re seeking to fill.

Don’t merely follow a trend; DEI is not about simply placing token numbers of historically underrepresented groups to look like you’re doing the right thing. Real change requires authenticity and embracing the values of diversity, and welcoming candidates specifically to contribute their unique talents to the collective advancement of your company and society.

3. Provide opportunities for continuous growth and development

The future holds constant change, warp-speed digital innovation, and massively shifting demographics. Training and developing employees with the advanced skills and diversity savvy they need to keep pace with evolving business objectives is paramount. After all, a learning culture fuels motivation and will help you stay competitive. Businesses and leaders who do not adapt will be left behind.

According to LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report, the top three skills cited by over 1,200 HR professionals are resilience and adaptability, technology/digital fluency, and communicating across distributed teams. CHROs are encouraging a focus on what we used to call “soft skills.” Tomorrow’s outstanding leaders will be empathetic, compassionate, and people-centric.

It’s fundamental to determine the skills required to achieve business objectives in the future and provide training initiatives that breed these skillsets. It is also essential to evaluate what unconscious biases may exist in your organization and deliver training related to hiring, development opportunities, and career advancement.

Final thoughts

Your most precious resource is your people. HR initiatives that unlock people’s innovation, embrace their diversity of approaches, provide leading-edge training and nurture inclusivity into the very DNA of your organization will pave the way to realize the aspiration for a better workforce and world.

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