How to lead in 2023
2022 was a long year of mass layoffs, quiet quitting/firing/promoting, the back and forth of remote/in-office work, and more. It’s left many HR professionals (myself included) feeling drained as we try to keep up with policies and trends in the workplace, while maintaining an engaged and high-performing workforce. It’s a wonder that we made it through the year – we all deserve recognition and a pat on the back for this feat alone.
But as we enter this new year, I’m hoping to learn from 2022 and direct my energy to areas of HR that I believe will be of the utmost importance in 2023. I’m taking a step back and evaluating where I’m focusing my time and resources, so I can lead my team and the people here at Humi to the best of my ability. And since you’re here, reading this, I recognize you’re also taking this crucial step to lead your team successfully in 2023.
In this Think With Humi edition, I’ll be going over what we should be focusing on and practicing as HR leaders in 2023. Let’s dive in!
HR trends in 2023
Here are the trends and major bets that I’m focusing on in the new year. Most of them aren’t new, but the way we’re framing them in 2023 may be different from the past few years.
1. People development
Coming out of a tough year where mass layoffs hit many companies, in 2023, learning and development, and namely, upskilling and re-skilling, should be top of mind. Businesses need to be clear about how they’ll be coaching employees to do more with less. The onus isn’t just on employees to strive for their own growth; companies need to take on a part of the responsibility, and do their work to enable the workforce they have. It’s important to note that not all employees are looking to be or need to be upskilled; in the wake of 2022-23 layoffs, many exceptionally skilled and specialized employees are impacted and would be looking to drive impact as a subject matter expert (SME). As a leader, it is critical to evaluate what skills are needed in the business, and evaluate if existing talent requires upskilling or re-skilling, before investing in this area.
2. Mental health & wellness
If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that employee mental health and wellness needs to truly be integrated in the workplace. No one can predict the long-term effects that the pandemic will have on people – so it’s not only important to care about mental health during the crisis of the pandemic, but beyond it. Being understanding, providing ongoing support, resource planning, and offering stress/mental health leaves to your team are all crucial as we move forward.
If budget is a limiting factor to introducing or enhancing your company's mental health and wellness resources, consider a cost-sharing model to ensure your team has access to the tools they need to be their best selves at work.
3. Remote/hybrid/in-office work environment
Many companies are trying to figure out their work environments for the new year. While most were remote during the pandemic, eased restrictions are leading to more hybrid working environments, or even complete returns to in-office work. In the new year, it’s important to understand which situation will work best for your company and your people. Although many businesses are cutting ‘unnecessary spending’ on in-person events, socials, conferences, etc., it is imperative that there are moments in the employee journey that allow employees to connect in person. Whether it’s a once-a-year in-person social, a co-working space, or monthly team socials, establishing what employees can expect for collaboration and connection is a critical piece to helping your people navigate what it means to work with you.
4. Employee experience
This comes as no surprise: employee experience is still at the forefront of HR in 2023. It’s as important as ever to ensure your team is thriving – but one key thing to focus on this year is how your employees connect with the company. Are you recognizing your team and their efforts in a way that makes them feel their work matters? How are you ensuring they’re continuously engaged – and even deeper than that, do your people feel connected to the mission of the company? How are you enabling experience, development, and performance?
Another part of employee experience that I’m thinking about is something we call “re-onboarding” at Humi: that is, the process of introducing employees that were hired remotely into the physical collaboration space. It can also mean re-introducing employees that have taken a leave (something that may be common as a result of the pandemic) back into the workforce. Companies will need to think about how they’ll prepare employees for these types of transitions.
5. Strategic HR planning and HR partnering
HR strategy is a known function – but going into this new year, I’ve been thinking more about building the muscle of HR as a true business partner. This means creating a bridge between the HR team and leadership, and building visibility into HR’s plans for the year. HR strategy should be proactive rather than reactive; in other words, your HR strategy shouldn’t be to only react to HR issues and put out fires as they come up, but rather to strategize alongside leadership and ensure they’re aligned on any big bets you have for the year.
When it comes to our People team, there are two areas I’m focusing on right now. The first is operating as a value-add catalyst between departments on all things development and experience, to enable people to do their best work: key work here, is enable. The second is building an in-depth integration of the People team across the rest of the organization. While establishing strategy at the top, work internally with my team on building partnerships with leaders and departments will support the execution of strategy.
How to lead with these things in mind
Knowing that all of these things should be top of mind in 2023, this is what we as leaders should be practicing in our approach.
Giving your people a voice and actively listening to what they say about how they want to work, how they want to be recognized, and what they need to be successful in their roles, is crucial. Employee surveys, an open feedback culture, and genuine conversations that lead to action are all ways you can ensure your employees feel seen in the workplace. But be weary: while we all need a space to vent, it is your responsibility as a leader to curb martyr behaviour, create appropriate boundaries, and prevent gossip-building within your team. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying “Thanks, but we’re going to stop here to prevent this conversation from being counter-productive; let’s get back on track on the topic X” to guide your team back to productivity.
Leading with empathy
After the last few years, it’s more important than ever to prioritize empathy in our leadership and to build a culture that puts compassion at the forefront. Understanding that employees have to balance their personal and professional lives, plus the challenges of the post-pandemic world, is necessary – for me, a phrase that has helped me navigate empathy in a post-pandemic environment is learning how to care, without carrying. It enables me to care about learning what people are experiencing and blocked by, while creating a boundary for what is my responsibility to solve. (We all know boundaries between work and personal lives have become a little blurred over the last two years!)
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking we need to have all the answers as leaders. On the contrary, vulnerability is an easily overlooked, but valuable trait to portray. You don’t have to have it all together – your team just wants to know that you’re there to support them, solve problems, and unblock them and their work. You’re only human, and being unafraid of showing this is a clear indicator that you’re a part of the team. Sharing what you’ve learned, what you’re focused on, what you’re concerned about, are all great conversation pieces that will allow you to be vulnerable and create trust between you and your team.
This one has been and will always be an essential part of leadership and as my colleague likes to say: clear, concise, kind communication is a practice we can all learn from. With all of the new policies and transitions being made, it’s important to ensure there’s an opportunity for communication so you can stay on top of how your team is feeling about any kind of transition. As a leader, you should be thinking about how you engage with your team members 1:1, virtually, how you share personal stories and wins/learnings, and when you talk about their professional development.
P.S. Never underestimate the importance of including a calendar description in a virtual environment (let alone an agenda!); that can ease a lot of anxiety for your team members, when they have a heads up about ad-hoc meeting purposes, and will help them prepare.
Whenever I’m in need of some inspiration, I turn to a few trusty resources from astounding HR leaders to help guide me. Here are a few of my favourite podcasts that I recommend you listen to whenever you’re feeling a little lost, or just need a few words of encouragement.
- Coaching Real Leaders with Muriel Wilkins (link here)
- The Radical Candor podcast with Kim Scott (link here)
- HBR: Women at Work (link here)
- The Career Contessa (link here)
- The Anxious Achiever (link here)
Learn more with Humi
To read more about leadership and building a healthy culture in your workplace, check out the following resources: