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Top HR and Recruiting Trends for August 2023

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August is National Wellness Month and this encourages us to engage in self-care activities to improve our wellbeing. It’s no surprise then that many of the HR and recruitment trends this month keep employees and their needs front and centre. 

Issues like authentic employee recognition and fostering wellbeing in the workplace stand out as opportunities for employers to tackle to help increase employee retention. 

A new ‘Great’ has entered the scene with The Great Realignment encouraging workplaces to take a step back and look at what makes their employees tick to get the most out of them. Again this contributes to increased retention which is incredibly valuable during the current talent shortage climate.

This month’s HR and recruitment topics serve as a reminder to put our people first in the workplace and the articles sourced offer good tips and strategies to help address challenges faced. 

Read on to learn more about the five trending topics in HR this month.

Xref branded green graphic with text that says: Upping the authenticity of employee recognition

Trend #1 Upping the authenticity of employee recognition

Employees crave recognition for their hard work, and employee recognition has multiple organisational benefits. It boosts employee engagement, loyalty and motivation and is a cost-efficient way to improve retention. However, it is important that recognition remains authentic so as to do the good it intends.

According to research by Gallup, employees perceive recognition to be authentic when it feels honest, meaningful and is specific. Recognition that is, on the other hand, indirect, vague, and not paired with a reward or opportunity is perceived as inauthentic, which damages trust and morale. 

Failure to properly recognise employee contributions can negatively impact the employee experience. Gallup research suggests that employee recognition feeds into organisational culture in key ways; it:

  • Shows respect: Employees who perceive the recognition they receive as authentic are seven times more likely to report that they are treated with respect at work. Patronising “praise” or empty flattery suggests disrespect.
  • Reflects organisational culture: How employees are recognised reflects the organisational culture on a wider scale. Employees who perceive the recognition they receive as authentic are four times more likely to feel connected to their organisation’s culture.
  • Provides clarity around performance: Recognition helps employees to know where they stand when it comes to performance. If they work hard towards a goal and meet or exceed expectations, and their manager acknowledges that, they have more clarity around their performance.

3 tips on giving authentic recognition

Recognition, when it’s earned, is worth its weight in gold and can positively impact the organisation in the ways already mentioned. Below are some quick tips for ensuring authenticity.

  1. Ensure recognition is specific: Wishy-washy recognition may be perceived as insincere. A manager saying “Great work!” is less impactful than a comment that is specific to a particular project and references activities, for example: “Great work putting those reports together and taking the time to add in extra comments — it has really enriched the insights!”
  2. Tailor recognition to suit the recipient: Managers should take the time to find out if their team members like to receive praise (e.g. in person or in a group setting), as it will be more meaningful to them.
  3. Pair recognition with something tangible: Words are powerful, but what will really motivate employees are rewards. Boosting the recognition by trying to offer a promotion, a monetary reward, a gift, or opportunities for professional development can show you are going the extra mile.

Employees can sniff out ingenuine praise. Fortunately, managers have daily opportunities to recognise their people. In addition, this isn’t only restricted to leaders, peers can recognise their colleagues as well to help improve the authenticity of recognition.

Xref branded green graphic with text that says: Younger workers are turning to ‘career influencers’ for advice

Trend #2 Younger workers are turning to ‘career influencers’ for advice

Younger workers have historically turned to senior professionals for work advice, but this is changing, according to an article in HR Grapevine.

The rise of social media and digital influencers means that many young people (especially Gen Z, born between 1997 and 2012) rely on platforms like TikTok and LinkedIn for career advice. 

“Career influencers” are creators who have gained an online following for providing advice to younger workers about how to operate in the workplace, from setting work-life boundaries to asking for a pay rise.

The HR Grapevine article noticed a trend in younger professionals turning to internet personalities for coaching, support and guidance instead of traditional mentors and senior colleagues.

There are advantages and disadvantages of younger workers leaning on social media career influencers for advice. An advantage is that it can be motivating and accessible. Catchy phrases and inspiring anecdotes captivate hoards of users, which can be shared and rewatched easily, and real-time interactions in the comments create a sense of community.

However, there are some obvious drawbacks. The HR Grapevine article points out that influencers and content creators may not have legitimate credentials. Are the videos meant to genuinely help young people at work or is the intention to get clicks and views? What’s more, this brand of coaching is indirect and impersonal, so the value they can offer is limited.

The usage of social media isn’t slowing down, but when it comes to coaching, career influencers can’t replace traditional coaching practices.

Forbes shares tips for fostering a coaching culture in the workplace, which can be valuable for all people, not only younger workers. The tips include:

  • Establish regular one-on-ones to encourage in-depth discussions
  • Focus on building trust and confidence before developing skill sets
  • Place emphasis on key coaching skills like active listening, displaying empathy, and asking open questions

While organisations cannot control whether their younger workers are heeding the advice of external coaches, improving their own coaching offering has the potential to encourage employee engagement and loyalty as well as offer direction and support to younger workers in line with organisational goals and values.

Xref branded green graphic with text that says: Fostering employee wellbeing 

Trend #3 - Fostering employee wellbeing 

August is National Wellness Month and for organisations this means an opportunity to take stock of workplace wellness initiatives.

A recent Australian Financial Review (AFR) article explores how workplace wellness and wellbeing don’t come down to the responsibility of just one person or department in an organisation. 

While People and Culture teams can do a lot for wellness and wellbeing initiatives, the AFR finds that having a manager simply validate a mental health-related concern can boost an employee’s wellbeing. 

Simply put, a line manager with “interpersonal, social and empathetic skills” can support employees and contribute to wellbeing.

There are many ways a manager and an organisation can support employee wellbeing. We covered some tips in our recent blog

The 2023 Best Places to Work Report found that all the top companies listed offer hybrid working options. In addition, 88% have development plans for each employee and 85% have a mental health plan in place. 

To improve wellbeing, organisations could consider activities such as development plans, mental health plans and hybrid work to foster wellness. 

To further support wellness and wellbeing, this month, employee recognition company Work, Points Play explores types of stress and how to manage stress. This is helpful for organisations to know how they can help improve employee wellness. 

“Research shows that every $1 spent to improve mental health at work can achieve returns of up to $4 through improved productivity and savings…” So, why wouldn’t an organisation want to be involved in employee wellness when the return is that significant. 

How to support increased wellbeing

Two tips to manage stress which leaders can help facilitate include:

  1. Taking regular micro-breaks and one long break each day. 
  2. Monitor successes - for example encouraging the team to keep a folder of the nice emails and messages received from others internally and externally.

Workplace employee engagement surveys are also a great way to know more about the wellbeing of your people. 

Xref recently launched our Employee Engagement Surveys through Xref Engage. These surveys can be used to assess your organisation’s performance across key areas like engagement and wellbeing. 

The results from employee engagement surveys can help organisations better understand how to support their employees’ wellbeing with the long-term goal of improved retention.

Xref branded green graphic with text that says: The Great Realignment 

Trend #4 The Great Realignment 

There’s been a lot of ‘greats’ in recent times - the Great Resignation, Great Regret and plenty more employment related shifts, most of which have occurred during, or post, the COVID pandemic. 

The Great Realignment reflects closely on Wellness Month, driving home the needs and wants of employees. The concept, explored by HR Leader in this recent article, dives into how the pandemic has caused workers to question why, how and what they are doing in their work and life. 

“Half of the participants in a Swinburne University survey described themselves as “work-centric”. After the pandemic, most of these participants switched to classify themselves as “family-centric” or “self-centric”, which means they are more focused on family time, leisure, and other personal pursuits.”

This type of shift led to many changes in the workplace including remote or hybrid work and the 4-day work week

So, what can employers do to ensure they are aligned with their workforce needs? The HR Leader article makes a few suggestions:

1. Create a sustainable operating rhythm

Adapt your operating rhythm and workflow to sustain performance over time. This looks different for every person, but to make the most of your people and their operating rhythm it can be valuable to understand any outside influences and support work-life balance. For example, do your people have children or commitments outside of work? If so, they may be more successful working certain hours and not others.

Additionally, find ways to create ebb and flow for your people in the work environment. You could create a work culture that embraces more relaxed Fridays every week or you could create periods of downtime after the Financial Year is finished. Try to find balance between what works for your organisation and your people. 

2. Focus on connections

Prioritise both personal and professional relationships. Meet in person when you can and find ways to connect with remote employees to help them feel like one of the team. 

3. Set clear boundaries

This is one that has been on the radar of most people who work in hybrid or remote roles - finding ways to distance yourself from work tasks when you work from home. 

At Xref, we have strategies in place to assist our people to set boundaries including setting ‘work hours’ in our Google calendars so meetings cannot be set in personal time and we enable Do Not Disturb status’ on our Workplace instant messenger chat. 

Organisations that align to the need of their people are likely to see increased retention which is very valuable in a talent shortage. The trending topic of the Great Realignment shows that employee needs and values are becoming more transparent and organisations are rising up to meet those requirements. 

Xref branded green graphic with text that says: AI enhancing HR and recruitment processes

Trend #5 AI enhancing HR and recruitment processes

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a hot topic of conversation for some time. Whether it be using AI in chatbots and ChatGPT to increase efficiencies or keyword scanning technologies to help with hiring for skills, AI plays an interesting part in our work roles. This month Spiceworks HR published three separate, helpful uses for AI in HR. 

  1. Modernising payroll
  2. Reducing rage applying
  3. Reducing time to hire

All three articles explore how AI can help recruit and retain employees thus making the lives of HR professionals and People and Culture teams easier. 

When it comes to payroll teams this type of tech empowers employees because it's easier for them to find information and reduces administration tasks. The role of AI in modernising payroll also shows that tech makes it easier to employ a more global workforce which is becoming increasingly important with remote work and talent shortages. 

Secondly, the unique ability of AI helps identify problems such as rage applying, before they become an issue. AI can help detect warning signs of employee frustration for example through language they may use when chatting to team members. 

However, it is important to note that monitoring employee conversations come with legal implications and organisations need to be aware of any legislation.

AI is adept at uncovering signs of disengagement such as declining meeting invites, participating in a reduced number of company events or activities and using paid time off as quickly as they are earning it. However, it is worth understanding that these are not always definite signs of disengagement. An employee could be very busy or unwell for example. 

Finally, AI may reduce time to hire, especially in the screening process. The current environment of talent shortages means talent acquisition managers don’t have time to waste not securing top talent quickly. However, there is also a need to ensure you are hiring the right person for the role. 

There are various uses for AI in hiring, from scanning cover letters for skills matches, to using chatbots to schedule interviews.

A recent Phenom and Talent Board study, revealed by the third Spiceworks article, found talent acquisition professionals list their most time-consuming tasks as:

  • candidate screening, scheduling, and interviewing
  • reviewing candidates with hiring managers
  • coordinating interview schedules

Many of these tasks can be supported by AI and what’s more, those talent acquisition specialists who use AI to help with those tasks listed above, believe the hiring process is far more effective with technology than without. 

Final thoughts

The five trends this month are very employee-centric. Employee wellbeing, authentic recognition, realignment of organisations and people seeking career coaching highlight how employees are openly sharing their needs and wants. Such openness to sharing needs and wants by employees is, in certain situations, driving organisational strategies and initiatives. 

With employees at the helm, such strategies like wellbeing initiatives and authentic recognition may go a long way to increase retention - in turn positively impacting an organisation’s bottom line. 

AI plays an interesting role in supporting these trends. The further development of AI and it’s increasing usage in many different industries, including HR and recruitment, is definitely one to follow. 

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