Resistance is Futile: You Will Comply! Spilling the Tea on HR Compliance Trends Coming in 2024

On this episode of Transformation Realness, I’m talking with HR veterans and Humareso president, John Baldino, and director of talent strategy, Robin Schooling. We’re spilling the tea on one of the sexiest, most exciting, most horrifying parts of HR: compliance.

HR compliance is becoming more and more complicated — and it couldn’t come at a worse time for HR professionals, who are woefully burnt out already (something I’m sure many of you are feeling!). The pain is SO real: “A lot of folks have reached the point where they’re self-selecting themselves out of the profession,” Robin says. 

In many industries — healthcare, retail, manufacturing — HR professionals faced increased pressure to deliver without having a chance to pause and evolve their work model. It was just go-go-go! And in industries like professional services, HR is often caught in the middle between protecting employee flexibility and business leaders calling for an unequivocal return to the office. 

So where does that leave HR professionals in 2024? Buckle in for a no-holds-barred conversation on the complexities introduced by COVID-19 health and safety compliance — and its far-reaching implications for personal liberties and workplace culture.

Balancing Compliance With Compassion

We’ve reached a point where we are just starting to feel the lasting legislative impacts of COVID-19-era cases on things like religious freedom, personal liberty, and political strife. If that wasn’t enough of a mess, HR professionals are learning that following the letter of the law is creating even more friction in the workplace. “From a compliance standpoint, the HR practitioner has a daunting task in front of them to both balance the prescriptive components of legislation,” John says, “and the cultural compassion around people.”

In a lot of places, for instance, the flu took a worse toll on people this season than the COVID virus did. But as John points out, employees might be entitled to paid leave when they contract COVID, they have to rely on personal sick time if they get the flu. That’s just some of the nuanced complexity that HR leaders have to think about: Do we just follow compliance to the strictest rule of the law? Or do we take that as the foundation for a new sick policy?

There’s room for both, but you have to find the right approach for your specific culture and workforce. “I think you start with compliance. That’s the foundation of your house, right?” Robin says. “And you’re building your policies and then your practices on top of that foundation.”

Managing Contentious Conversations

A unique challenge HR leaders faced during the pandemic was the question of masking, which began as a personal choice but evolved into a company mandate. That friction between personal liberties and public safety has haunted us since 2020 — and is poised to be especially challenging during the upcoming election cycle.

“The 2016 election year, 2020 election year — I never saw anything so contentious in the workplace as I experienced those two years,” Robin says. Managing politically charged conversations at work while protecting employees’ psychological safety can be a real challenge. And that’s especially true now that we’re navigating workplace legislation that’s often neither fully developed nor well-defined — leaving employers with uncertainty and a lack of clarity on how to comply.

As an example, John cites a New Jersey state law that shifted unemployment filing requirements from physical paperwork to virtual documents uploaded to a public web portal. Great idea, right?? Well… the portal wasn’t operational immediately after the legislation passed, leaving HR on the hook to explain to employees why they couldn’t comply with the new rule. It’s a nightmare.

Further complicating things: employees today have access to a 24-hour news cycle and are more informed than ever (and increasingly misinformed) of their rights. HR’s struggle to navigate compliance can lead to mistrust between employees — some of whom may be acting in less-than-good-faith — and the business, with HR stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Investing in Yourself to Better Support Others

So what’s a girl to do with all of the compliance complexities in 2024? As daunting as all this is, John and Robin agreed that survival is going to require a new level of self-awareness and self-care. 

First, stay informed on a variety of topics: “Don’t just immerse yourself in HR,” Robin says. “You need to be aware of the things that are going on — culturally, politically, economically. You don’t have to be a deep-dive expert in all of these areas, but you need to know what’s going on.” Staying on top of some of the issues helps you manage contentious conversations more proactively.

Second, take care of yourself: There’s a lot going on in the world, and HR is often placed in a tough spot balancing the needs of the business against what’s best for people.

Finally, John says, recognize what a privilege it is to be in our position as HR leaders. “Everyone around us, whether they always admit it or not, needs to know that someone is willing to stand in that spot and be steady and constant in it. There’s comfort and confidence in knowing where I can go,” he says. “And when you stand in that spot, and do so over a period of time — and with compassion — honestly, you win people over.”

People in This Episode