Six HR leaders on their top tips for how HR can help employees bring their whole selves to work
We asked six HR leaders for their top tip for ensuring their employees can bring their whole selves to work. Here’s what they said:
1. Form safe spaces for people
“Form listening sessions specifically to hear people’s ‘in your shoes’ stories and help amplify those stories to where people feel comfortable to more widely share something different about themselves authentically. Listen to understand, and listen as if every person you are listening to is ‘right’ (even if initially you either don’t understand or you ‘in the moment’ disagree), show curiosity but also do your own research into areas of difference. If you feel able to share a bit about yourself too that isn’t a gloss or perfect, you often find others do the same. Publish openly that you and your company want to embrace and celebrate people being their true selves at work. And sometimes if you personally open up and share something that makes you feel a bit vulnerable or you do something differently, it often gives others a feeling of openness to do so also, and each little move may have a positive multiplier effect on you and your team culture, allowing all people to feel they can be themselves, be valued and belong.”
Sue Eilfield, VP people & culture and inclusion & diversity, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners
2. Help employees to tell their story
“This has always been a question that has intrigued me, as I believe it is up to the individual to either be or portray what they want an external audience to see. What I can say is that it starts with the employer creating an environment where employees can feel safe and respected to be who they are. The employee, in turn, must contribute to this environment by respectfully being willing to take the time to share their story. The employer and employee should work together to educate and communicate with each other and then others on the team, as people may need to understand how individuality can positively add brilliance to a company culture.”
Eugenio Pirri, chief people & culture officer, Dorchester Collection
3. Champion inclusiveness through your culture
“Fostering a culture that encourages innovation, creativity and inclusiveness, and which champions diversity is key in enabling people to feel empowered and bring their whole selves to work each day. That’s why it’s so important to have an open environment where differing perspectives, experiences and opinions are recognised – and where diverse views are sought out when problem solving or decision making. For example, at Unum we have set up employee networks which identify and embrace opportunities to celebrate different backgrounds, traditions and views. This has been a great way of creating a safe space for sharing ideas so that employees feel valued, motivated and listened to.”
Natalie Rogers, chief people officer, Unum
4. Unleash the full potential of every individual
“People are at the heart of every success. That is why it is so important for employees to relate to a company’s vision and feel fully aligned with its values. This shared understanding creates the basis for great teamwork and can fuel the journey towards achieving collective goals. It is also a key factor in building a culture of trust, openness and respect, where everybody feels comfortable speaking up and expressing their unique point of view. By ensuring freedom for how employees work, leaders can empower each individual to unleash their potential, which encourages innovation throughout the company. In such a safe environment, every employee will be truly inspired to unfold their talent and make a real impact on shaping the company’s future.
Oliver Lamm, head human resources Germany, Grünenthal
5. Create workspaces that encourage authenticity
“The COVID-19 pandemic took everyone on a journey of self-rediscovery, with many facing the realities of life that were necessarily covered up with the fluffs of work. As people leaders, the top tip I will suggest rests on the word authenticity. Engagements must start at the top and teams are likely to bring their A-game on when they see this. We must create workspaces that encourage authenticity and self-expression. Being vulnerable and dealing with errors should be part of the workflow. Insincerity of leadership can be felt miles away and this will not help in the long run.”
Taiwo 'Dayo-Abatan, group head human capital & corporate services, Primera Africa Group
6. Be human
Treat them as human beings first and foremost. Your employees are people with lives outside work, navigating everything which that brings. Be curious and interested in them, their views and opinions. Encourage team members to share different perspectives and create an environment where it is safe for people to share and debate these perspectives constructively and with mutual respect. Show that you are a human being too. Share things about yourself: talk about what is important to you and what concerns you; Be open to individuals questioning your decisions and actions. See this as a learning opportunity for everyone and be vocal about the importance of doing this.
Joan O’Connor, head of leadership practice, 10Eighty
This article is part of The People Space's Meet the Human-Focused Leaders of 2021 series in partnership with management consultancy 10Eighty.
Leaders pictured in order left to right on each row