Tracy Madgwick

Dec 19, 2019, 9:43 AM

It's all about the people! – How can you nurture your human resources in 2020?

Looking back over 2019 as an HR consultant working with a range of different clients, there have been a number of key themes that have driven the people management agenda in the last 12 months. None of them are new, but they certainly seem to have taken a higher prominence.

The war for talent

The first, and in my view by far the biggest, has been what’s been called the “war for talent”. Virtually every employer I speak to says that getting and keeping good staff is becoming more and more challenging.

I think that there are two main reasons. Firstly, we’ve had many years of relatively low pay increases and that doesn’t look like it will change in the immediate future. Staff are increasingly moving from one employer to another to get a pay increase, or using a better offer from another employer to negotiate a pay increase with their current one.

Secondly, staff (particularly more senior staff) who are broadly happy with their pay are staying put in their roles because they’re concerned about Brexit (sorry!) and the impact that may have on the employment market. They have a point. Why leave a job where you are relatively well paid and have employment rights for another job with an employer you don’t know that well and with no unfair dismissal rights, when you have kids and a mortgage to think about!

Employment flexibility

Another big shift I have seen – and its linked to the point about limits on pay – is towards flexible working. Employers are starting to realise that if they can offer flexible working to potential applicants, they suddenly become far more attractive as an employer.

Some employers are embracing this wholeheartedly and offering part-time work in a way that they have never done before. I will be the first to admit that there is a long way to go to convince the majority of employers that they can still run effective organisations without full-time staff, but I certainly feel the balance is shifting.

As more organisations embrace flexible working and realise the benefits it brings, then others will follow suit as they realise that it makes them more of a force in the war for talent.

Mental health awareness

The third big shift is a much greater awareness amongst employers and staff about the role that mental health plays in the workplace. We have seen the matter discussed far more in most of the media. Indeed, my colleague Emily Petty refers to this in her blog on fundraising.

Even a couple of years ago, the term “Mental Health First-Aider” was unheard of. Now organisations are seen to be failing if they haven’t identified and trained staff in raising awareness of mental health issues.

All these efforts are to be applauded and encouraged and I hope 2020 will see more work and awareness around mental health. However, we shouldn’t underestimate the task that is ahead of us. The number of tribunal claims where employees are successfully winning cases of mental health disability is on the increase, which goes to show there is still a lot of bad practice and general ignorance about mental health in the workplace generally.

Finally, I couldn’t end a review of 2019 without mentioning the menopause. It seems to have been the big topic this year. Women going through the menopause have been in the workforce for years but it suddenly seems that you can’t move for articles on supporting women who are going through this stage in life.

Again, raising awareness can only be a good thing; the more employees who are struggling with symptoms of the menopause feel that they can speak openly, the better. I do hope the good work that has been started will continue into 2020.

Tracy Madgwick

Tracy Madgwick is a seasoned HR professional who has held a number of senior HR roles in well-known charities. She currently provides HR support to smaller charities who have no in-house support, as well as providing additional capacity for existing HR teams in larger organisations.

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