November 18, 2020

Four takeaways from a day of conversation with HR leaders

By Britt Provost, EVP of People and Culture, Accolade

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Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to represent Accolade at Evanta’s Seattle CHRO Virtual Executive Summit. It was a lively conversation about the challenges human resources executives and their teams are facing and the ways the pandemic is changing how we work – potentially forever.

But it was more than just talk, too – the summit was a font of ideas from Emerald City HR execs about the best ways to face these challenges, and about new opportunities for ensuring our teams feel supported while they face their own obstacles, from balance work with new childcare responsibilities and coping with unprecedented levels of stress.

From a morning full of fantastic dialogues and discussions, there were a couple points in particular that stood out.

EAPs are more valuable than ever, but utilization is still low

A round-table discussion of 10 CHROs made one thing clear – employee assistance programs (EAPs) are powerful tools for helping staff members improve and maintain their well-being but getting employees to actually take advantage of these services remains a challenge for many businesses.

One point raised in the session Accolade hosted was that engagement troubles may not represent a branding or marketing struggle for EAP, but instead reflect that an EAP that is insufficient to the task in front of it today. The pandemic is an opportunity to rethink whether a lot of your current programs are actually serving your team the way they’re meant to. If your EAP utilization is floundering, it may be time to step back and evaluate if it’s working for your organization, and how it could be replaced or supplemented.

Survey fatigue is real, and it’s here

With employees stressed out by a pandemic that’s picking up steam eight months in, it’s more important than ever to keep an eye on how your team is coping. But with folks largely out of the office, it’s harder than ever to draw a bead on the wellbeing of your team, both as individuals and as a group.

That’s left HR leaders leaning on surveys to understand what’s going in the heads and homes of the people they serve. But while all those surveys are well-intentioned, the people taking them are feeling over-surveyed, and many are checking out, limiting how effective surveys can actually be. Be judicious about surveys to your team, and make sure you’re asking the right questions – including looking for feedback on your survey structure and cadence!

This isn’t the new normal yet, and we don’t know what that will look like

This was less of a direct point, but a principle that informed a much of the day’s conversation: As much as things have changed in the course of 2020, they’re not through changing yet. And while the challenges of this era will ultimately be temporary – even if it doesn’t feel that way sometimes – the changes they’ve brought about are likely to stick.

Getting a handle on the COVID pandemic is essential, and things won’t always be like they are today. But there’s no going back to the way things were before the pandemic, either, and trying to plan for a return to the previous status quo is not going to serve your organization. That’s why so many participants emphasized the importance of flexibility.

Self-care isn’t just for your employees – take time for yourself too

HR professionals do what we do because we like helping people and making sure they’re in situations where they can thrive. And with so many of our colleagues and co-workers struggling lately, it can be hard to feel like you have the luxury of taking time off, or just unplugging for a weekend.

But there’s a reason flight crews remind you to put your own oxygen mask on first if there’s an emergency. Burning out yourself or your team will only leave the rest of your organization less well-supported in the long run. Keep in mind that HR teams aren’t immune to the same stresses their colleagues in other departments are facing, and they need support just as much as anyone else.