How to cultivate HR’s increasing influence

People gathered at a conference event

For years Human Resources has been gaining influence at a strategic and board level, however the arrival of the pandemic has now placed HR firmly in the spotlight, seeing it take front and centre of every business.

In fact, the Australian Human Resource Institute’s (AHRI) October 2020 pulse survey revealed that HR professionals felt their influence on their respective executive teams had increased by almost 15 percent over the COVID-19 period. This is unsurprising, as both employers and employees turned to HR for additional support and guidance in navigating a work environment that was turned on its head.

This is a time when many HR leaders have perhaps never held so much sway, and are able to make decisions that could directly affect how an organisation rebuilds itself in 2021. Here are some ways a HR team can utilise this increased influence to help rebuild and reshape the workplace moving into 2021.


Prioritise wellbeing

If it has done anything, the pandemic has demonstrated the importance of employee wellbeing and mental health. While an organisation’s profits are often seen as the pinnacle of its success, it has become increasingly apparent that workplaces placing direct importance on employee wellbeing are more likely to rebound faster, and experience greater productivity and output.

If not already, many organisations will now be proactively turning to their HR department to guide them on strengthening their employee wellbeing programs to improve employee mental health. By rising to meet the demand for these types of initiatives, HR leaders can establish strong foundations that won’t only better the wellbeing of the workforce, but also improve employee satisfaction and organisational culture and appeal.


Utilise social influence

When it comes to influence, it doesn’t all come down to positional power, and even those in a managerial role could lose sway with their employees should they not meet leadership expectations. In the research paper ‘Understanding Our Influence over Others at Work’ by Vanessa Bohns, it was revealed that it is in fact social influence that drives a lot of progression in workplaces and society at large. It is therefore social influence that HR professionals can be utilising during this time to assist them in driving positive workplace change.

Social influence is when a person is more likely to engage in a behaviour that their peer is also engaging in. This works for both ethical (for example, being accountable for your actions) and unethical (taking no responsibility for your actions and presenting false versions of the truth) behaviour. In this way, HR professionals should lead by example and focus on making change from the bottom up. By openly practicing organisational culture and values, and demonstrating correct implementation of processes, they are more likely to see other throughout the workplace mirroring these.


Communications is key

Uncertainty is created by a feeling of the unknown, something the pandemic provided by the bucket-load. During this time, many employees were likely looking for answers regarding their new working conditions and structures, with most of this information often being supplied by HR professionals, given it directly relates to people strategy. As a result of this, an HR team might have found themselves engaging more directly with employees than previously experienced. This is because during times of uncertainty, employees will naturally lean on and look to those who are actively and openly communicating with them. Moving forward, this level of clear, concise and frequent communication will be important for HR professionals to maintain.


Growing importance of upskilling and reskilling

Even before COVID-19 reached our shores, changing technologies and new ways of working were disrupting jobs and the skills employees need to do them. In a recent McKinsey Global Survey, 87 percent of executives said they were experiencing skill gaps in the workforce or expected them within a few years. But less than half of respondents had a clear sense of how to address the problem. The pandemic has only exacerbated and drawn more attention to the importance of upskilling or reskilling employees to help organisations be better prepared and deliver new business models in the future.

This is an area where HR professionals will become a vital part of an organisation’s progress. HR will be able to plan and implement training programs and strategies that allow employees to adapt to rapidly changing conditions, while assisting companies with matching those workers to new roles and activities. HR should craft a talent strategy that develops employees’ critical digital and cognitive capabilities, their social and emotional skills, and their adaptability and resilience. By committing to employee training, companies will be better prepared for any future disruptions, as well as generally improve employee performance and engagement.


If you are looking for experienced Human Resource professionals, contact us today and speak to one of our specialist recruiters.

Leave a Comment