HR’s blueprint for human sustainability at work

The UN has outlined 17 objectives for sustainable development in their 2030 Agenda. Each country is playing its part, through their national strategies. But for us to arrive at a level of global sustainability, everyone needs to play their part. Companies (particularly HR Directors) play a key role in this.

As John W. Boudreau and Peter M. Ramstad demonstrated in their 2005 study Talentship, talent segmentation, and sustainability: A new HR decision science paradigm for a new strategy definition, published in Human Resource Management, organizations face two main challenges. Attracting (and retaining) talent and ensuring that economic targets are in line with social and environmental changes.

To overcome these two challenges, the first step is to balance what companies promote and display externally with what they do for (and with) their employees. These two aspects must live alongside each other. Aligning internal and external objectives allows things to run properly, preparing for the company’s success.

Complexity is potential that generates value

That’s why the concept of Human sustainability is increasingly important within corporate agendas. It’s the collection of steps that a company takes to train its people, as well as how they enhance their wellbeing, inclusion and engagement. HR departments play a central role in implementing these steps, ensuring consistency between what the company is and what it shows about itself.

And it doesn’t stop there. Companies can develop their ability to see people for all they are, in all their complexity. This in turn generates value. It’s an opportunity to go beyond the concept of work-life balance, instead adopting a vision of work-life synergy. In fact, people’s personal and professional lives don’t go into conflict with each other. We are the same people at home and at work, while we speak with our children, friends, managers and colleagues. We don’t just bring a part of ourselves to our desks, a slice of what we our and a portion of our skills. We don’t stop being mothers, fathers, children, siblings and friends when we close the office door. Quite the opposite: our different life spheres strengthen each other.

That’s why companies can choose to prioritize their people through programs, projects and initiatives. It’s a way of putting into action their Human sustainability projects and establishing a HR blueprint, regarding the concrete impact that human resources has on the future of the company.

But how can companies plan HR processes that respect sustainability principles? It all starts with valuing equity, development and wellbeing within the organization. Sustainability values can be shared across the culture, translating into corporate practices. This reinforces people’s skills, motivation and productivity (which can all be measured through People Analytics activities) that are fundamental for companies to obtain good financial, social and environmental results.

Every person brings their richness to the table

This is a new way of looking at human capital. In fact, when companies leverage all that their people have to offer, rather than limiting their actions to a single role, individuals feel fulfilled at both a professional and a personal level. This has a positive impact on the business too.

Life transitions drive the constant growth and development of our people. That’s why we shouldn’t be afraid of changes over time. Companies can actually benefit from them, maximizing their people’s experiences and talents to enjoy greater motivation, wellbeing, engagement and efficiency levels. These are the elements that contribute to the company’s sustainable growth and the value that they create.