Originally published in BenefitsPro April 06, 2021
Human resources has traditionally operated as a decentralized unit that managed policy and paperwork. Employee selection and hiring, forms, and benefits management were largely the scope of the role. But if you ask an HR professional what their workload looks like, you’ll hear a very different expectation of this position.
Today’s HR professional needs to have knowledge of every department and every aspect of the employee experience within the company. By having this critical business intelligence, HR is empowered to be a much more central and strategic position within the organization, able to sit in on upper management meetings and provide guidance and insight into the people and process aspects of the team.
A changing workplace
The workplace has experienced a massive transformation; large corporate campuses and structures are virtually abandoned and employees are working from literally anywhere. And yet, through the right technology and tools, HR managers are able to track, communicate with, and train employees no matter where they are.
Delivering policies, goals, expectations and ongoing learning through a synchronous ecosystem allows the company’s culture and values to be clearly and consistently expressed, ensuring the vision of the leadership team carries to all employees. This guides the way the organization does business, which defines the company and experience for employees and clients.
The growing gig economy requires that HR is able to add on part-time or contract employees, flexing pay, benefits, time tracking, and needed forms for the scope of the work being done. Paper is too slow, so more HR professionals are turning to digital solutions to keep up.
Not only has the physical environment changed, but the demographics are also bringing on new demands. Baby boomers are exiting the workforce and tech-savvy millennials and Gen Z are filling those roles, with the expectation of virtual interviews and online forms becoming the norm. How employees view themselves is also changing, challenging prior conventions on subjects like gender. HR teams need technology and solutions that quickly adapt to today’s workforce.
Bringing in strategic value
Where does HR fit within the strategic objectives of the organization’s leadership? They are crucial implementers of how the organization communicates to its people. Consider all the aspects of an organization the HR team influences:
- Policies and guidelines
- Training and ongoing learning
- Expectations and goals
- Performance management
- Personal development
- Compensation and benefits
- Ethics and values
Guiding these aspects of the organization to align with strategic objectives moves the HR professional from an administrative role into a key strategic position that defines how work is done. The way to make sure that these strategic objectives and values are integrated into the day-to-day of the team is through the heart of the company: HR.
HR has a pulse on team temperature and people operations as a whole, giving them the optimal vantage point to drive change management. It all starts with asking the right questions: What are the common questions employees come to HR with – can resources be made more readily available to put this information at employees’ fingertips? How does the majority of your employee population communicate and access information outside of work – do they use smartphones? Own laptops, tablets, or personal computers? How technology savvy are your employees? Where are there opportunities to spend less time doing tasks that should be automated? How much time can we save by automating those tasks?
Once you start assessing your current situation, you realize (1) just how much money is being spent on manual work or lost to human error and (2) where there are gaps that can be filled to strengthen the employee-employer relationship.
The way forward
So how does a pragmatic HR professional achieve all of this? There isn’t a magic bullet. The safest solution is to define technology resources that will act as the system of record– an authoritative and single source for your data–for each of the separate components of HR (e.g. payroll, benefits, recruiting, learning management), and integrate each of these systems of record for a fully connected HR ecosystem. This helps decrease data errors and allows for accurate tracking and reporting while freeing up HR to focus on organizational health and strategic initiatives.
Engaging forward-thinking advisers and the right technology partners can help HR identify the best tech to fit organizational needs, and will be transparent about what’s possible and how it can be achieved.
This shift isn’t a trend; the role of HR has forever changed from transactional to strategic, and by taking action now you can be that change agent within your organization.