Ask virtually anyone in HR how they’re feeling at the moment: it’s burnt out, exhausted and like nothing they do is right. Trapped between wanting to do the right thing for the business and for their employees is a common feeling, and we often hear “I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place”. 

With businesses pushing harder than ever to cut costs and prove return and employees’ expectations getting higher, it’s no wonder HR teams are feeling stuck in the middle of an impossible situation. 

This isn’t new news to a lot of us… but now there’s a real risk of businesses losing both their top talent and their HR talent, unless the c-suite steps up to fix HR’s PR problem.

Recently, we did some research on the state of businesses and benefits in 2024. One of the things we uncovered was the difference between how HR are perceived by employees and their executive teams. 63% of employees felt like HR added no value to their experiences at work, meanwhile 83% of executives felt HR was pivotal to meeting the needs of the future workforce. 

And the worst part of it all – mid/senior professionals in HR teams are one of the most likely sets of employees to be looking for a new job this year (57% of them, in fact!). 

Not only does that leave a huge skills gap within the business, it also proves that years of being put under intense pressure is starting to take a toll. 

So, how can executive teams step up and change the narrative for their HR functions? And, is there anything HR leaders can do? 

Listen to what your employees actually need, and respond

One of the main problems with bringing in new policies and benefits, is that they’re not what your workforce want and need – and feel “one-size-fits-all”. Becky, 29, from Essex doesn’t have the same needs as Callum, 49, from London. 

Connecting the dots between your existing policies and core life moments for your employees is a surefire way to up engagement and respect toward HR as a team. For example: you have a parent’s network, enhanced mat/pat leave, KIT days, financial coaching and resources for returning to work as parents in your benefits’ locker. Why not pack all of those up and show them to your employees as they go on parental leave (or, better still, get a third party coach to remind them of everything!)

Stop making HR the fall guy

All too often the visible work that HR does is the bad news: poor pay rises, benefits no-one seems to care about, lay-offs and difficult employee conversations. And people talk. Especially people who feel disgruntled – so bad news travels fast and gives a negative perception of your HR teams to the wider business. To combat this, think about how you could make your People function front and centre for the good moments: promotions, pay rises, celebrating new homes, new children, bringing in great benefits and being a part of . 

Listen to your HR teams

A lot of the best ideas come from HR teams. They wanted to make DE&I a thing before the boards decided to implement it, they wanted to provide good mental health support before it became a hot topic and they’re the closest people you have to employee trends, feelings and news. Listen to them. I think they’re right about employees wanting to be supported through their life stages.

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