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The Pandemic Helped Us See Employees in Real Life. Let’s Take What We Learned and Build on It.

The Pandemic Helped Us See Employees in Real Life. Let’s Take What We Learned and Build on It.

I’ve long hated the term “human capital.” As head of human resources for a large financial services firm, I know I’m supposed to embrace the phrase and use it regularly, but it’s always made me wrinkle up my nose a bit when I hear it.

According to Investopedia – my go-to for all the financial terms I don’t understand (which are many!) – human capital is defined as “an intangible asset or quality not listed on a company's balance sheet…the economic value of a worker's experience and skills.”

While I agree that employees are the best asset any company has, I don’t believe that employees should be viewed solely for their economic value. Employees are human beings with diverse and complex backgrounds, experiences, and lives that can help bring perspective to the work that they do both individually and collectively, as a company.

But in order to unlock those valuable perspectives, we as employers have a responsibility to help our employees show up at work as the people that they are and not the people the corporate world thinks they need to be.

[Related: Companies Are Losing Top Talent Because of Exclusive Behaviors]

Historically, companies have viewed employees’ personal barriers as outside the realm of corporate responsibility. They’re not. Personal barriers – like finding time to nurse, caring for a sick spouse or parent, mental health, or substance abuse – manifest in the workplace.

As employers, we can’t just expect employees to deal with them only outside of business hours. That’s particularly true today when so many people are working remotely, where the lines between work and home aren’t just blurred, they’re nonexistent.

During the pandemic, I’ve seen many companies, my own included, do more to support employees in their home lives with childcare solutions, mental health resources, and other creative benefits. But what happens when people start going back to the office? Will that support dwindle?

At RBC Wealth Management, we are committed to continuing to support employees 24/7 – not just 9-to-5. We are committed to knocking down the personal barriers that stand in people’s way of bringing their full, authentic selves to work.

Consider a new mom returning from maternity leave. Maybe she’s still nursing and struggling to find time to pump during the workday. Maybe her job requires quite a bit of travel, which makes pumping even more difficult – trust me, getting breastmilk through TSA is no easy feat! So, because of the hassle and the pressures to fit the mold of the working, traveling woman, she feels she has two choices: stop breastfeeding or quit her job.

[Related: Before You Quit to Care for Your Family, Have This Conversation with Your Boss]

Neither of those choices benefit her and, believe it or not, neither benefit her employer. Even if she gives up nursing and stays in her role, how engaged will she be and how much loyalty will she feel toward her employer? My guess is not much.

But, what if her employer offered something like Milk Stork, which ships a pump and all necessary supplies to that working, traveling, nursing mom’s hotel room and then ships the breastmilk back to her baby? That new mom could continue working AND nursing. She’d also likely feel far more affinity and loyalty to her company for helping to break down a big personal barrier to her success.

Over the next year, as vaccinations rise and more workers return to the office, there will be ample opportunity for companies to ease the strain of yet another change on employees.

In fact, there’s never been a better time than now for employers to show their people that they care about them in all facets of their lives. Companies need to remove the barriers for employees to enable them to bring their multi-dimensional selves to work. The war for talent is real, and recognizing and supporting all aspects of employees’ lives is a key weapon in winning it.

[Related: In Search of You, Chief Empathy Officer]


Shareen Luze is the Senior Director, Human Resources at RBC Wealth Management, where she is responsible for the development and execution of strategic human resources strategies and initiatives for RBC Wealth Management – U.S. She and her team support the RBC Wealth Management – U.S. business through design and execution of HR programs that support employees and give them the tools they need to succeed.

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