HR practitioners can only change the impact they have on staff when they change the way they think, says Nishan Pillay.

Superheroes are often considered invincible and have an amazing ability to gain community support and affection, not to mention their skill at balancing personal and “work” lives.

If I think about these qualities, another superhero comes to mind. The hero is the Human Resources (HR) practitioner. These mild-mannered individuals often go unnoticed, but over the last few years have truly saved organisations from trouble.

It’s been more than 15 years since I studied Industrial Psychology and I can tell you that everything has changed. The roles and responsibilities of HR have become much more complex, in part due to the pandemic we have found ourselves in over the last few years, but also due to the acceleration of digital in every single workplace globally.

You would think that digital would ease the burden of HR due to automation and collaborative tools. However, after having just completed my master’s in digital transformation, I can tell you that people are front and centre of any digital change.

Why could this be? Because the art of human-to-Human connectivity does not only revolve around policy, it revolves around people. We, as HR professionals, are the experts in exactly that.

This expertise has, however, been tested in the last two years; the working world has evolved in an exponential fashion and HR professionals have had to deal with hybrid working environments, technology training, disengagement, employee wellness, proactive talent recruitment and a weak middle management bench.

They have taken on this challenge, all the while putting their own wellness on the back burner.

For the all-encompassing aspect of wellness, the formula has not been cracked. So often we refer employees to Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), but this is not enough. We look for proactive solutions because we need them as much as the employees. However, the odd nutritionist or yoga instructor only creates plasters for an ever-increasing wound.

I ask you to ask yourself: When last did any of your employees complain that you considered their mental and physical wellbeing a little too much? Is there even such a thing as “too much”?

Given that we live in a fast-changing new world where virtual is the new literal, what are you personally doing to create a safer space for your teams – a space where your employees feel safe enough to trust you with their emotions and feelings, and truths?

I am of the view that it is only when we change the way we as HR practitioners think, that we can actually then change the impact we have – we must elevate ourselves from the transactional and re-discover the empathy that drew us to the profession, the empathy that has been lost because of the tireless and thankless job we do.

The business and leadership outside of HR must evolve to a more human, considered approach and realise that if we don’t all think about the people asset, there will not be a sustainable business for the future. Then, and only then, we will truly become the superhero employer our employees want, need, and deserve.

I must, however, also add that, the advantage of working for an independent advisory provider like ASI – who truly understands the dynamic world of employer benefits – thankfully does bring me significant comfort on a daily basis. I find myself surrounded and supported by talented superhero colleagues who also dedicate their days and nights to making employees and employers more aligned, well, stronger, and more purposeful.

When “I” is replaced by “we”, even “illness” becomes “wellness”.