Right before our eyes, there is a seismic shift occurring in respect of what we want and expect out of our workplaces, and this change is creating a fresh opportunity for HR professionals to influence organizations in ways we’ve rarely been able to previously. This shift goes to the heart of the workplaceand its social construct, and if missed will see organizations fall short on many fronts, including the war for talent, which is a pressing issueglobally.

This shift is toward a ‘congenial workplace,’ and that is a place that takes on its own personality to be highly relatable for those who connect into it.

Even before the pandemic changed our world, there was a strong trend of employees seeking a workplace that gave them a true sense of belonging and connection to personal value-sets. This was particularly the case amongst Gen Y and Z workers whocritically evaluate a company’s social contract across all facets, fromits environmental footprint, to the way it serves communities,to itsdiversity and inclusion practices.

What the pandemic has done however is accelerate for many,across all demographics, a deeper question about what we value andexpect to derive from work in connection to our broader lives. In other words, workers are asking – areweexperiencing the relatability we are looking for in our workplace?This has been one factor that has sparked the great re-evaluation; we will no longer settle for second best, we want our workplace to truly fulfill us professionally and fit in with our life expectations.

Work is no longer just about the exchange of labor and effort for a result and livelihood.Nor is culture and employee experience viewed in isolation enough to drive engagement and business performance. Workplaces have effectively becomea construct of their own that humans seek something more from; a sense of purpose and congeniality that deeply aligns with our sense of identity. Organizations that have identified this new phase and implemented legitimate long-term strategies to make themselves relatable are winning, especially in the post-pandemic era.

“Workplaces have effectively becomea construct of their own that humans seek something more from; a sense of purpose and congeniality that deeply aligns with our sense of identity.”

When we talk about congenial workplaces, what is it that sets them apart from others?

• They have set a ‘fulfillment contract’ with their people, where the focus is on establishing employment relationships that ensure contribution and relevance, whilst allowing the employee to experience a rich life both at work and outside of work.

• They see genuine conversation as non-negotiable.Employees are empowered to have a voice in key business decisions, and the organization has put in place sophisticated multi-faceted communication strategies to ensure employees are effectively listened to about work, as well as personal circumstances being faced in the non-work setting. Furthermore, leadership has made it safe for an honest voice to be heard from its people.

• They have crafted a well-being strategy that covers all needs including mental, social, physical and financial wellness.

The congenial workplace has therefore prioritized human-centered thinking in the way that it operates as a key pillar to complement, and in many instances enrich organizational performance.

How does an HR function play a strategic role in creating a congenial workplace? The answer does not rest entirely in driving traditional employee experience practices or the Environmental, Social and Governance agenda, which remain critically important. Organizations and their human resources teams need to stretch beyond this, and the first step on this journey is to carefully consider how the people function interacts with the organization and how relatable it can become.

In a practical sense, many companies would already have set the foundation of a congenial workplace through employee engagement models that underpin a service culture.Now is the timetotake the next step in progressingthat service culture todrive moments that matter in both internal and external interactions. Examples of practices to consider include:

• Completing a gap analysis focused on the connectivity of the HR function across all corners of the organization- in order to identify opportunities for day-to-day interactions that equate to ‘whole personconnection’ not just ‘business partnering’.

• Offering personalized people experience services that exceed the needs of leaders and key groups. One example is putting in place career concierge interactions for team members that eclipse traditional development conversations. These need to go to the crux of what each individual is ultimately seeking in order to be fulfilled andenriched in their work life, and to feel relatability to their work and workplace.

• Continuing to pursue automation as a means to equip and empower HR resources to build and maintain rich and meaningful interactions across the organization, balanced with authentic human experiences

• Identify technological architecture that can complement and enable enhanced interactions, including the use of chat-bots to drive self-service, mobile-based platforms that encourage speed of interaction and communication (especially in a dispersed organization), as well as possible malleability of the metaverse to encourage belonging, ideation and social connectivity.

At Wyndham Destinations Asia Pacific, we have been taking steps for quite some time to make our organization a more congenial one by considering all of the aforementioned suggestions, and in particular how we can evolve our interaction model to be more relatable as a human resources function. Technology has played a crucial role in some of our most recent work, including a complete revolutionization of our new starter experience which blends consistent and meaningful people interactions with automated mobile based technology. This is powered by Enboarder and is designed withhuman-centric journeys in mind.

The shift toward the congenial workplace is truly exciting and on the rise, and takes a willingness to leave old mindsets behind.The next big step for HR has arrived.