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The world of work evolves continuously, introducing new HR practices and methods into its landscape almost daily. Because of these changes, startups and established companies alike are beginning to reevaluate the role of HR, the importance of company culture, and the impact one has on the other.

In a nutshell, the current wisdom is that culture and HR should work in tandem to enhance the employee experience, which in turn should attract and retain more top talent as a result.

But how exactly do culture and HR work together to create an appealing employee experience? We know HR plays a key role in the networking and hierarchical functions of a company, such as payroll and daily admin tasks. Increasingly, however, culture efforts are becoming a top priority of HR departments. HR and people leaders are now notably responsible for fun days and off-site events, social connections between employees, and staff inclusion.

The trouble is 70 percent of employees believe HR can do a better job fostering a positive company culture, according to a survey conducted by my company, Hibob. At a time when culture may be more important to recruitment and retention than ever, employees feel HR teams are ineffective.

What’s the problem, and how can we fix it?

HR’s Culture Challenge

Forty-eight percent of respondents to our survey said they felt indifferent about the role of HR, and 18 percent even said HR actually detracts from their experience at work. Additionally, employees consider less than 15 percent of their coworkers to be friends, and we know a lack of friends at work often correlates with a negative workplace culture.

In a past Hibob survey, 77 percent of respondents said culture is extremely important, and 69 percent said they would reconsider a job offer if a company’s employees seemed bunt out. In light of this, HR’s influence on the employee experience cannot be neglected. In a candidate-centric talent market where employees will have a relatively easy time changing jobs if they’re dissatisfied, HR and management must prioritize team-building and company-wide connection and collaboration to both improve the culture and mitigate high turnover.

For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

Improving HR’s Core Function to Foster a Stronger Employee Experience

So, how can companies change the role and structure of HR to foster a better work environment, one with a strong culture and an overall enjoyable employee experience?

Companies must work to empower their HR teams while investing in them wholly, giving them the proper tools to better connect with their people and work more effectively. These tools could be digital — meant to automate mundane tasks and create more time to focus on culture and human connection — or these tools could be training resources that teach people leaders how to build out the employee programs and experiences today’s talent desires.

Here are a few more specific steps companies can take to bolster their HR teams:

  1. Start hiring for emotional intelligence (EQ): HR and management teams should be staffed by people with high EQs. After all, these teams are responsible for assessing employee happiness and detecting signs of burnout while remaining mindful and approachable.
  2. Empower HR teams to build well-being programs and perks: HR should prioritize mental and physical well-being initiatives based on the expressed needs of employees. (That means collecting feedback and requests to find out what employees actually want.) Something as simple as offering yoga classes at the office can help employees feel happier and more fulfilled at work.
  3. Encourage HR to create unique company experiences: HR teams should create unique traditions and experiences to promote a sense of belonging among employees. A good example may be celebrating the company’s birthday with some sort of spirit day, creating a fun environment for people to come together as more than just colleagues.
  4. Promote collaboration between HR and management: The HR department and team managers should be working together to implement strong employee experience initiatives that will lengthen the employee life cycle.
  5. Rebrand the HR department: This may seem like a radical move, but as noted above, the HR function has been changing for a long time now. Bring in new HR talent and reimagine traditional roles to better align with staff’s expectations of HR. Even simple title changes like “chief people officer” or “chief happiness officer” can make HR teams seem more approachable.

Bringing people together is crucial to business success and the longevity of the average employee’s life cycle. As long as the workforce views HR as an obstacle to strong culture and a connection with their colleagues, there will remain a rift in the company’s structure, and this will negatively impact both the candidate and the employee experience.

Companies must align their HR departments with the expectations of the modern workforce. Above all else, today’s employees are after strong cultures, purposeful perks, and transparent management. HR is increasingly becoming the department responsible for delivering on these expectations. Don’t leave your HR team in the past.

Dana Matalon Goren is CCO at Hibob.

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