2020 brought an upheaval of norms in the workplace, leaving employees concerned and forcing HR leaders to understand, assess, and act on new changes and business priorities.  Through all of the turmoil, companies needed to pivot their goals and align their people strategically and thoughtfully.

“Organizations are only as good as the people who comprise them,” Andrea Lagan, betterworks’ Chief Customer and People Officer said in a recent webinar: It’s the People Who Matter—Driving Performance for Long-term Business Value. “Every single person in an organization, regardless of role or title, is on a journey of some sort. And truly understanding the journey our employees and our customers are taking with us is the only way we facilitate change and drive growth over the long term.”

That journey has been disruptive for everyone this year, but Lagan outlines the 7 key factors HR leaders must build in order for companies to empower employees and thrive in the face of change.

1. Clarity

Individuals in an organization look for clarity around expectations and responsibilities and how they are being assessed. They want to understand where they are going and why. Clarity provides the foundation for people to take destiny into their own hands. When they know what’s expected of themselves and others, they will execute better and expand their capacity to learn.

A key way HR leaders can provide clarity to their workforce is through OKRs (objectives and key results). OKRs are the center of any organization that wants to provide transparency and clarity into what’s most important. When you use OKRs and have a regular cadence for measuring the progress against them, individuals feel alignment, which is critical to productivity and engagement, especially with remote work.

2. Alignment

The key to effective performance management is connecting alignment to strategy. In a betterworks survey conducted last year,  less than half of managers felt good about their state of goal setting and alignment. If managers feel that way, imagine how the rest of the employees feel. 

The key to aligning everyone in the organization starts with a goal setting process that everyone is a part of—alignment cannot be accomplished with a top-down approach. Goal setting has to include regular check-ins and lightweight conversations that align managers with their team.  Alignment includes opportunities to provide and receive feedback and recognition, an integral part of engagement.

3. Engagement

CFRs framework (conversations, feedback, recognition) contributes to engagement. It’s a natural desire for human beings to feel like they belong. Organizations can achieve that level of engagement through clear goal setting paired with open, honest communication between managers and peers.

When employees have the ability to see at any time their individual impact, they will feel like they belong. Open communication models and gathering feedback (both open and  anonymous) will give you a highly engaged workforce that is critical to your growth trajectory.

4. Resilience 

This year in particular has tested many people and companies in their ability to be resilient. Resilience isn’t about how you get your employees to work harder and endure more. It’s about making sure they can recharge so they can easily respond to or recover from a crisis or disruptive event. This is critical in today’s world where it’s tough to simply disconnect and recharge. 

Leadership can make decisions that go a long way in terms of building resilience within an organization. Betterworks, for example, has employees block 1 hour on their calendars every day, other than lunch, to use as the individual pleases: take a walk, play with their kids, read, do yoga—whatever helps them recharge. Betterworks also ends their workweek every Friday at noon in every time zone. The belief is that if their people feel recharged, they and the business can accomplish more.

5. Accomplishment

People feel accomplishment when they feel encouraged by their managers and teammates and when they are able to see their own progress. When an organization builds a culture where people openly talk to each other about their challenges, what they might do differently, and what they’ve done right, employees feel a sense of pride and a desire to learn more and grow.

6. Growth

No one wants to stay exactly where they are forever. An organization’s most ambitious employees expect their leaders to help them build their skills. This type of ongoing motivation and skill development is a continuous process—it’s not something that occurs once a year with a backwards-looking performance review. It requires leaders to identify employees’ development goals in regular goal cycles and to uncover formal and informal learning approaches. This includes providing timely feedback, continuous coaching, and engaging teams with a sense of purpose. 

Successful growth happens when people understand what an organization’s priorities are and how their own progression fits into that plan. When employees feel empowered and encouraged to grow, they feel trust.

7. Trust

Trust is a must. As John Doerr wrote in Measure What Matters, “To make teams most effective, you must have the element of trust.” The importance of building a culture of trust cannot be understated in terms of its impact on long-term business value. 

The transparency in OKRs together with an investment in frequent and light weight conversations, feedback, recognition, and active listening creates a much more trusting environment—even more so when powered by a technology solution that enables all of these activities. 

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that organizations and HR leaders must focus on their people, create a communicative environment, and build trust from within.