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HR’s vision and workplace reality: How to join the dots in 2023

By Shandel McAuliffe | |6 minute read

The last few years have been a challenging time in the people management arena. But through various crises, people around the world have raised the bar on what’s expected of work and employers.


Be it more flexibility in how work is done, or more diversity, equity and inclusion in the workforce, important conversations, research and work have taken place to set new and improved HR standards. But has HR forged so far ahead, so quickly, that other leaders and managers in the business find it hard to keep up?

Like any department in an organisation, HR can run the risk of working in a bubble, assuming other areas of the organisation understand the why and how behind new HR initiatives, and that they have the capacity to maintain pace with HR’s energy in driving positive change.

The start of this new year is a good time for HR to check that the work theyve been championing over the last few years is really being felt at all levels of the business.

For example, if youve been focusing on DEI, and youre proud of the work your HR team has done over the last year to diversify new hires coming into the business, remember to check on those new employees to make sure theyve received the warm welcome youd expect. Asking the person directly how theyre going and not shying away from difficult conversations is the best way to gain accurate feedback.

Sometimes managers and the wider business dont realise how certain aspects of the workplace are impacting on someone – as starkly illustrated in the movie Hidden Figures when the main character has to trek far across the worksite to a bathroom for Black women. Modern audiences might watch this and think weve moved on from such distressing examples of discrimination and inequality, but until you experience someones workday through their eyes, its impossible to know whether your organisation is truly equitable for all your workers.

In short, your DEI policy isnt worth the figurative paper its written on if the experience people are having in your business doesnt match it.

Flexibility is another aspect of modern work that can suffer from a disconnect between what HR knows current and prospective employees want, and leaders and managers pushing their own personal agendas (sometimes without even realising theyre doing it). If your HR team has created a policy that embraces remote or hybrid working, it may have little impact on people if line managers are making it clear their preference is to see their team in the office on a daily basis. And the pressure can be very subtle – like a simple, “See you tomorrow?” said to a direct report at the end of the workday; forcing the person to feel they need to justify themselves if theyre going to be working from home.

If HR really wants business leaders and managers to align with the amazing progress being made in people management, they need to co-create people initiatives with their leaders, and then get them to commit to walking the talk.

Is there an HR initiative that youre particularly proud of that youd like to see more business support for this year?

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel has recently returned to Australia after working in the UK for eight years. Shandel's experience in the UK included over three years at the CIPD in their marketing, marcomms and events teams, followed by two plus years with The Adecco Group UK&I in marketing, PR, internal comms and project management. Cementing Shandel's experience in the HR industry, she was the head of content for Cezanne HR, a full-lifecycle HR software solution, for the two years prior to her return to Australia.

Shandel has previous experience as a copy writer, proofreader and copy editor, and a keen interest in HR, leadership and psychology. She's excited to be at the helm of HR Leader as its editor, bringing new and innovative ideas to the publication's audience, drawing on her time overseas and learning from experts closer to home in Australia.

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