There’s no doubt about it –

Companies are seeing HR in a new light.

For decades, HR carried a reputation that they were too focused on compliance and only protecting their company.

But remote work, hybrid teams, retention challenges and COVID have made the value of a strong HR department impossible to ignore.

Faced with a range of challenges that only HR can fix, businesses are raising budgets and placing more trust in HR than ever.

However, HR has to make sure to avoid one key trap.

And that’s making sure they don’t start appeasing teams for the wrong reasons.

HR Can’t Say Yes to Everything

One of the first steps many businesses are taking to retain or engage talent is to offer more perks or rewards.

From higher salaries to shorter work weeks, companies are bending over backwards to make their people happy.

When thinking about these options, HR has to consider not only the wellbeing of their teams, but also the wellbeing of the organization at large.

One great example is higher salaries. It sounds great on paper. After all, competitive compensation does make it easier to hire top talent.

But if a higher salary is the only thing motivating teams to join and stay at the company, sooner or later they’ll be bought out.

You’ll see a short-term rise in retention…but in the long-term you’ll be back at square one, and with less money to show for it.

It hurts the organization in the long-term, which inevitably hurts team members in the long run.

We all want to make our people happy. But you have to make sure any rewards, perks or raises truly benefit both the organization AND your people in the long term.

Offer Rewards to the Right People for the Right Reasons

Think about the things you value most in life.

Were they things given to you freely?

Or were they things that you worked hard to earn?

Odds are, you value the things you won through blood, sweat, and even some tears.

When we give our teams rewards or raises freely, they’re happier for a few days…then they take them for granted. It may sound harsh, but it’s the truth.

The reality is that perks or unearned rewards don’t really improve morale, engagement or retention. The only exception is rewards offered for exceptional performance.

Furthermore, the last thing you want is for HR to be seen as a pushover. If you say yes to everything, sooner or later people will start to lose respect for HR and the organization.

If people start to look at HR as a pushover or desperate to please, they’ll ask for rewards or perks for the wrong reasons.

HR Must Fix Big Picture Business Challenges to Be a True Strategic Partner

We’ve established that perks and rewards get taken for granted – and don’t permanently move the needle on engagement or retention.

So how can HR make a difference here?

How do we present significant, long-term solutions to engagement or retention challenges?

HR has a golden opportunity at the moment.

They’ve earned a lot of respect and goodwill over the course of the pandemic – enough to reverse decades of unfair perceptions.

But if they want to cement that reputation as a true strategic partner, they need to continue that momentum.

In other words, they need to develop and implement solutions that address the real causes behind disengagement and turnover.

There’s two key pieces to making that happen: developing a better understanding of their people and developing stronger leaders across the organization.

Know Your People, Grow Your People, and Effective Leadership

Whether we’re team leaders or in HR, we can’t improve employee engagement unless we know what drives each person on our team.

What does success look like for each team member? What inspires them to become the best version of themselves and to deliver their best in the workplace?

Everyone is different here – and unless we know the answers to these questions, we’ll never get the best engagement.

HR can leverage performance solutions like OpenBlend and the Predictive Index to understand their people on a much deeper level – as well as how to leverage that knowledge for results.

The second piece is improving leadership. The saying that people quit bosses instead of jobs is largely true! If you want to get the best for and from your people, you need to make sure they have exceptional leaders.

Quality leadership education is a must to make sure your leaders can learn what makes their people tick and lead them accordingly.

The most effective leaders adapt their leadership style to different individuals on their team and support each team member according to their unique personality and drives.

But that’s a LOT easier said than done – which is why leadership education is so essential.

HR must champion these initiatives and guide the organization through their successful adoption.

Let’s Focus on Helping Our People Grow Before Making Them Happy

I understand the urge to make your people happy. But the morale boosts we get from unearned rewards, raises and perks are always temporary.

The satisfaction that teams get from working hard, reaching their goals, and growing as individuals is tough to beat.

As leaders and HR professionals, the single best thing we can do is understand how our people want to grow – and coach them to get there.

It’s not as easy as giving away rewards…but it’s well worth it for both your teams AND your organization!