Laura Williams has watched several global trends shape workplace issues
As they now gradually return to the office, employees are bringing back an altered view of work and career and employers are grappling with that and other changes, says Laura Williams, an entrepreneur, HR lawyer and speaker.
“I think the pandemic has just called us to a different sense of urgency in terms of living in the way that we find meaningful,” she says.
Employees are becoming introspective. “Sucker punched by the pandemic” and captivated by global social movements, they are reconsidering what they want out of their 9-5 and a “new world of work” is being conceived, says Williams. Some want greater meaning, some more control, flexibility or autonomy, but it is still unclear what the future of work will look like. These trends, along with COVID’s work-from-home shift and the mental health crisis, are all contributing to a “resignation boom,” the retention challenges currently being experienced by employers, says Williams.
“A lot of people right now are looking at how their organizations value them… HR law intersects with this in a very powerful way. Because oftentimes, when people aren't happy, and they escalate, usually there are legal implications to that.”
“This whole season and climate that we're in right now is forcing leaders – and some are responding well, some are not – to really up their communication and find their way forward to stabilize organizations so that they can retain their people,” says Williams. “And they can make sense of how to work differently because everybody's working differently.”
The employee consciousness shift follows several years of global issues bleeding into workplace trends. Around 2015 and 2016, #metoo and Time’s Up was followed with a “huge spike” in workplace investigations related to sexual harassment, says Williams. After the murder of George Floyd, allegations of discrimination dominated the firm’s investigation and review work. Now, as vaccines have become a polarizing issue, she is seeing conflicts and even harassment arising out of vaccination status.
“There's an extraordinary escalation right now of complaints that have given rise to a boom in our investigation practice and in the organizational review work that we do,” she says.
“We're seeing types of work now that we haven't seen in the past. You know, investigations related to conflict over whether or not people are vaccinated in an office – who knew?”
Williams built her business on the premise that if organizations do not get their people issues right, they will not meet their business objectives. She is founder and managing partner of Williams HR Law LLP and president and CEO of Williams HR Consulting Inc. She is also a Certified Professional Speaker, a designation conferred by the National Speakers’ Association, and does a lot of keynote speaking, education and media appearances. For example, she appeared on City News Breakfast Television this past weekend to discuss vaccine policies and other return-to-work issues.
Williams HR Law provides full-service advice to employers on personnel and HR law issues. The firm does investigations work, organizational reviews and restorative work.