HR Strategy

Chief Chat: HP’s chief people officer on how HR leaders can maintain a healthy workforce

“You can’t be complacent.”
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Kristen Ludgate

· 4 min read

Most people feel like they could be a little healthier, whether by cutting down on sugar or doubling down on exercise. But what about being a little healthier in your approach to work?

Less than one-third (27%) of knowledge workers have a healthy relationship with work, according to a report from HP. The tech company surveyed over 12,000 knowledge workers, 3,600 IT decision-makers, and 1,200 business leaders in 12 countries.

HP’s chief people officer, Kristen Ludgate, told HR Brew how people leaders can maintain a healthy workforce.

What makes a work relationship healthy?

We found six characteristics. One, do they have a sense of fulfillment at work? Or a sense of purpose, a sense of agency, and [the knowledge] that they’re having an impact. Then, how do they feel about their leaders? This is building on the long-term trend in HR that an employee’s work experience day-to-day has a lot to do with the experience they have with the leadership of the company. Workers are looking for human leaders. People that are open—not perfect, but empathetic. Third aspect has to do with people-centricity. They want to be treated like a human being. Be respected, be trusted, and have autonomy. (They want to see that in their leaders, too.) Those three characteristics were general and maybe not surprising.

There were three characteristics that were different and surprised me a little bit. One is confidence in skills. In our study, there’s a difference between mature economies and emerging economies, where workers in emerging economies are having a more positive experience of work because they feel more confident in their skills. Then, another characteristic is tooling. Do employees have the tools they need to do their job, no matter the location they’re doing it? The last characteristic is about workspace. Are they comfortable in the space they’re working in? Can they transition between locations?

The more positively employees feel about these six drivers, the happier they are with their relationship with work.

There seems to be a startup mentality here, in successful talent retention coming from constant innovation, skill investment, and paying attention to what’s working and what’s not. What are your thoughts on this?

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You can’t be complacent. You have to earn leadership in your company. Showing up every day. Treating your people as people to get the best out of them, and that includes figuring out what skills you need, how to help people get the skills they want, and always looking to the future. That’s clearly part of what leadership is required and what’s required to be successful if you want to be an innovation company.

You want to keep your employees with you and keep them connected and happy, because they’re the ones that are innovating. It’s a great lesson for large companies and reinforcement of the need to constantly look to the future. Realize that we have to have a healthy and valued experience for employees, if we want them to bring all of those positives to our business.

How can HR leaders show up every day, despite the many demands of the job?

HR teams are on the frontlines of change, whether it’s change due to the pandemic or economy. What I tell my team is: Wow, what an amazing time for people organization. You’re on the frontlines of a social transformation, and you’re in a position to make work better for people.

As a person who leads an HR function, we also have to take care of ourselves and take care of our own teams. Make sure our people have the tools they need to stay ahead. Make sure that we’re constantly listening to people in our people org, as well as in our company. Invest in the skills needed to be a people professional in the future, because it’s different. Just like business leaders, you need the technical, subject-matter skills, and you need the EQ, or emotional intelligence. Think about how to invest in your teams to make sure they have all of that.

Also, be compassionate and open. Keep a pace, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. That means you take breaks, that means you replenish, that means you don’t overtrain. This all contributes to the day-to-day leadership of a team in this new pace that we’re all working in right now.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.