It’s that time of year again. If the cable channels are starting to show Christmas movies it’s not just the holidays which are looming into sight but the next financial year – and with it the need for HR leaders to finalize their budgets.
But what issues are HR leaders having to tackle as they plan ahead for 2022, a year which – hopefully – should see more of a return to normality after the previous, COVID-19-rocked two? What are the challenges? And what tech are they investing in?
One woman who has signed off more than a few HR budgets is Rita Trehan, a former Fortune 200 chief human resources officer turned global HR consultant.
Previously a leader of HR at Coca-Cola and the World Bank, she tells UNLEASH that 2022 will be a time for businesses to consider how they can operate more holistically.
She says: “I think the focus for HR and budget should be really understanding, what have we learned through the COVID process?
“Some companies have realized how many silos exist in their organisation. It’s a real opportunity for HR to take a lead, and instead of just thinking about HR technology to say, ‘this is a time that we need to be thinking across our whole organization’.
“How does work get done? And what’s the best way to design that? I think spending money on changing or transformation implementation is important.”
Take an end-to-end approach with HR tech
There will be a rush to focus on implementing technology – “which is a good thing”, Trehan says – but, she adds, HR should think about it “end to end”.
“So, if there’s a transformation project going on around HR systems or HR processes, recognize that there’ll be a similar sort of project going on around customer experience, or with how they connect to going to market,” she states.
“And unless those teams are actually talking and cross-functional, you get very discrete, isolated projects and an incredible amount of wasted time and effort.”
“Because HR is a support service, rather than a front office/revenue-generating service there are complications. It’s not that the digital employee experience isn’t important, it’s just that it doesn’t come first in the competition for funding.
“The ROI conversation versus whether the process works OK today – even if it can be improved – is likely to garner a response of ‘do we have to change it now?’.”
React to the rise of blended working
One impact of the pandemic which HR leaders may not previously have had to consider is the rise of home or blended working.
It has provided an extra challenge to take into account if, like tech firm Stark – a startup helping enterprises streamline accessibility compliance through end-to-end collaboration – your team is in nine countries and growing.
“Ultimately, the logistics sometimes get muddy because there are drastic differences between benefits on a country-by-country basis. We want to make sure everyone has equitable benefits,” Oscar Müller, Stark’s head of ops and finance, comments.
“We also want to go one step further and find out which country has the better benefits, and how we can improve on them,” he says.
“But to do that, there needs to be a solid baseline. Which is why we don’t use the US as a benchmark for the benefits that team members should get as, quite frankly, the benefits are substandard.
“We actually use Germany as our benchmark, but are continually seeking ways to challenge and raise the bar for equitable employment – agnostic of country.”
Stark has tried hard to level the playing field so individuals in one country were not at an unfair advantage simply because of local laws, says Müller.
“While we can’t compete with the giants in [all we do], I’d argue our overall benefits of working from anywhere in the world – with paid-for health insurance, new hardware, and what you need to do your best work – supersede ping-pong tables and a laundry service.”
Stark is investing in a global remote employment platform, Boundless, which enables it to compliantly employ people in a growing number of countries, and handle tasks like payroll and tax filings “in minutes”, says Müller.
“They have already become an extension of our team, supporting employees with any questions they may have about their payroll, payslips, benefits or employee rights in their country.”
Meanwhile, Bailey expects to see a number of service optimization programmes which fix the existing platform rather than wholesale transformation.
“This could be through Applaud, which allows employers to improve the applications to better the employee digital experience without replacing the underlying systems,” he says.
Integrate into employees’ daily lives
For her part, Trehan thinks firms looking to replicate the way employees run their personal lives, at or outside the workplace is a trend to follow.
“We use WhatsApp, SMS and social media to contact people. I think that’s the kind of approach that we need to take… actually integrate it into the way people run their own lives.
“Because we want things to be easy, we want things to be simple, we want it to be how we run our own lives.”
She concludes: “A lot of companies are mirroring those sort of platforms and making them internal channels. There will be a lot more focus on collaboration technology.
“What that is, I don’t know. I think that’s still to be seen – everyone’s really looking for the next new thing.”
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