Kate Benson, Associate Director Frazer Jones Australia, recently hosted an insightful roundtable discussion in Brisbane, with a group of senior HR professionals on the current challenges facing HR professionals in Australia.
The group quickly established that although everyone was coming from different environments, the challenges being faced were universal.
Top of the list was creating and maintaining a psychologically safe workplace under the latest legislative framework, followed closely by how to create a successful hybrid working model that empowers employees through trust while there are mounting pressures on business performance in an economy that is slowing. The final area of discussion was how to harness virtual reality technology to create exciting and innovative ways to enhance an employee’s experience through onboarding and training.
Here are some highlights from the discussion.
Creating and maintaining a psychologically safe workplace
In response to the growing awareness of the importance of psychological health and safety in the workplace, the government agency Safe Work Australia released a number of legislative developments in both 2022 and 2023. The legislation aims to provide clearer guidelines for employers and employees, ensuring the psychological well-being of workers is treated with the same level of importance as physical safety.
When it comes to psychological health and safety, employers can often be confused about their responsibilities. They want to know how to address the legal requirements, what best practice is, and how they can address the risks.
Whilst HR and safety professionals within businesses have been doing a lot of work in this space, what has changed, since the legislation came into place in Queensland on 1 April 2023, is the growing awareness across all levels of the business about their legal obligations.
The group is now interested to see what cases emerge as a result of these new laws, and the impact it has on businesses.
Hybrid working model 2.0
The hybrid work model challenges employers to satisfy and balance their need for visibility into employee work activities with a level of trust that allows for employee schedule and location flexibility.
Hybrid working is still a hot topic in Australia and around the world, but the sentiment has shifted to organisations accepting all kinds of flexibility.
According to McKinsey & Company, 52% of employees prefer a more flexible, hybrid working model post-pandemic, yet this model is open to a wide variety of interpretations, including:
- Universal: applied across the organisation, with fixed days in the office and remote
- Variable: applied across the organisation, with decisions made at the team level
- Case-by-case: set at the individual level, adhered to week over week
- Fluid: schedules without constraints, whereby individuals come and go as they please
The group discussed that the communication piece has been the key for HR in influencing senior business leaders to think about the longer-term outcomes rather than using the return to the office as a mechanism to combat trading conditions.
Virtual reality technology – innovative ways to enhance an employee’s experience
It is widely believed that a better onboarding experience can lead to happier and more efficient employees. Virtual Reality for meetings, workshops, training, and virtual classrooms offers a fantastic way to onboard and train new employees, as well as engage existing employees with new training. This is particularly important in the wake of the social isolation caused by the pandemic and working from home.
The group all agreed that virtual reality has been a game changer for organisations, especially for things like onboarding remote staff. Some companies have adopted VR technology to allow a seamless experience for employees when onboarding both remotely or for multiple sites. The technology can create an induction from drawings so there is no need to even have filmed the actual site. It means HR and Safety can trust that everyone has had the same information in the same amount of detail in a controlled environment.