What initiatives can support an organisation’s goal of connecting its people across multiple levels to ensure shared engagement and accountability, asks Ashley Jacobs, People Manager at Altron Karabina 

People spend a lot of time in the office. The average person spends 90,000 hours at work. They don’t want to sit in a pool of toxicity, under a boss with zero empathy or in a culture that doesn’t give them a sense of connection. Recent research undertaken by EY found that people who feel as if they belong in a company are more engaged and motivated. What was interesting is what made people feel as if they belonged – 39% felt they belonged when they could speak freely, 56% when they felt trusted and respected, 34% when their unique contributions were valued. This creates a culture that values, recognises, and connects with people and makes them feel as if they belong is critical to a positive and engaged workforce. A bridge between the business and the people within it. 

According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report, employee stress right now is at a record high. Interestingly, the survey found that managers had a significant role in the stress felt by workers with 60% of employees feeling stressed every single day. Wedded to the external factors of political and economic turmoil, you can see why people are exhausted, overwhelmed and stressed.  

This is not conducive to productivity and a vibrant company, which is where a culture of accountability and shared commitment comes in. Companies that prioritise wellness and recognise the limitations of employees will create workplaces that are more fulfilling and that are populated by people who are loyal and committed to making work, well, work.  

The challenge is to unpack a communication and connection method that recognises what accountability means across different layers within the business. There’s the personal level, but then there is the procedural level, which is where HR tends to sit, and it’s become increasingly important for companies to create a stronger balance between the human element and the procedural one. The human connection is far more effective in creating an environment where people can openly discuss the challenges they’re facing and how these can affect performance, and then for HR to use this insight to give them the support they need to work within these challenges. It is holistic, and it is relevant to today’s overwhelmed workforce that’s focusing on wellness and wellbeing as a priority in 2023.

This doesn’t mean walking away from HR procedures and legal processes that are inherently important to the effective running of a company, it means instead that the structure provided by HR goes beyond the paperwork. The people management structure is defined by processes but aligned with values and real-world complexities. 

Right now, with loadshedding, the cost of living, political chaos and visibly collapsing infrastructure, people in South Africa are angry. This anger inevitably trickles into their working life and interactions. Companies can’t afford to ignore this, or the other emotive reactions to the current landscape. Instead, HR and the company culture should be focused on how to support people through this difficult time.  

A bridging approach to HR and culture means connecting the different sides of the coin – people and profit – to create an environment that inspires employee loyalty and productivity. It’s about catering to those who thrive with flexi time, those who want more skills development, those who want to work from home, and those who love working in the office, and recognising that every employee adds something unique and so that uniqueness should be valued. The modern business isn’t going to thrive within rigid walls and hard-lined demands, it will thrive if it builds a holistic environment capable of seeing people as people and that thrives because people are complicated, interesting, and diverse.