In recent times, HR’s strategic position within organizations has frequently been called into question. Time and again we’ve witnessed debate around the function’s place (or lack of it) within the C-suite, pointing to HR’s need to prove its worth. But HR now has its moment to seize a leading position in business strategy as the COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on – and transformed – crucial aspects of our working lives.
“… a chief people officer can make or break a company,” reported The Economist, comparing the people leader’s role during the past year to that of the CFO during the 2008 global financial crisis. Leaders across business are beginning to realize now, more than ever, the importance of HR during times of stress and change for an organization.
...a chief people officer can make or break a company”
Never before has HR been given such an opportunity to improve employee experience and bolster executive buy-in.
New HR competencies in the face of uncertainty
Enterprise continues to transform at pace. Yet this is bringing seemingly perpetual change to the way work gets done. New work has emerged to support a different approach to productivity and respond to employees’ shifting expectations. Executives are embracing remote work models, changing working patterns, while employees are looking for a balance of flexibility and direct interaction with their co-workers. These shifts are resulting in hybrid full-time and contingent workforces and distributed global work models which require HR to develop new competencies in areas including internal and external communications, employee safety, marketing, behavioral science, coaching, data science and analytics, wellbeing – and more.
To fully realize its potential, HR must change its approach, and also the way it communicates. Rather than treating people as “capital” or “resource”, today’s business and HR leaders must place individuals at the heart of their purpose.
As technology continues to automate manual processes, HR has the opportunity to focus primarily on serving and enabling their people through meaningful strategic initiatives like wellbeing programs, and long-term growth and development. It’s time to think differently about people, about their relationships and their impact on organizations, and ensure the right conditions are created to allow people to thrive.
Watch our recent webcast with UKG here: 3 HR Megatrends affecting People and People Tech in 2021
People before profit: Businesses will adopt a greater purpose
Using Technology within HR Service Delivery to Enable a More Human Experience
Technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning may actually hold the keys to making the employee experience more human. The commonly stated benefits of automation are the removal of administrative tasks that free people to engage in more creative and strategic roles. However, as we gain experience with these technologies, there will be opportunities for HR systems to be more predictive; providing insights based on data, transactions, or demonstrated employee behaviors.
As companies navigate through transformation, the human touch can be the difference between a positive or negative employee experience, even if communication is done remotely and triggered by a bot. In this way, HR service delivery may be one of the most critical technologies in the enterprise. It’s where HR directly touches the employee on a day-to-day basis. Resolution of issues/cases raised, providing clarity and access to information, proactive outreach to employees, and other actions based on employee user behavior and data show a clear correlation between HR service delivery automation and an improved employee experience.
One of the most interesting uses of chatbots or conversational interfaces in the HR tech stack is in the area of employee relations. Implementing a chatbot not only decreases the HR administrator’s workload; it also increases employee engagement. Employees are given an interface to browse and search the HR knowledge base, often providing immediate feedback, guidance, and closure to their queries. When making specific requests of HR, chatbots can also guide employees through the collection of any required information. This includes pointing employees in the right direction to access or find it; employees can leave the chatbot and come back to pick up where they left off. The overall service experience is greater than calling or emailing a service center, and HR administrators can spend time on more complex issues.
Life-work synergy: Work and the workplace will center around employees’ lives
The business outcomes of putting people first in your HR service delivery strategy
As businesses transform, employees from the shop floor to the boardroom are being asked to re-skill, upskill, adapt, and learn new processes. Teams and managers that were once across the property, campus, facility, or down the hall are increasingly located anywhere in the world. HR is tasked with bolstering the company’s culture and engagement while providing systems and processes that enhance the overall employee experience – but at a time while cultures themselves are under great scrutiny based on societal issues including diversity and inclusion; and while employees are experiencing increased stress and mental health issues.
Prioritizing your people doesn’t have to be a trade-off. What’s good for employee experience is also good for the business. The opportunities for HR to positively impact employee experience through service delivery are endless. The consumer trend of “micro-experiences” – an overall experience being made up of numerous smaller interactions – applies to HR, too. Onboarding to benefits administration, PTO management, record access, and life event updates are all examples of HR as implementer – not just assessor – of employee experience.
Transformation requires a stable foundation. HR must earn the opportunity to transform the business by delivering on basic employee expectations. An agile mindset and HR technology strategy will surely propel HR on its path to transformation. But finding new ways to continue supporting employees’ fundamental needs in the new hybrid working model world with increased customization and personalization is essential to any HR and digital transformation agenda.
The rebirth of HR: From reinventing to leading
HR needs — and deserves — a flexible, global HR service delivery platform
HR professionals are asked to be superheroes, responsible for a wide array of critical missions, such as employee engagement, retention, learning and development, succession planning, and benefits management. None of these missions will be successful if the company is fundamentally at risk. Compliance that keeps a company’s employment practices safe and legal must still underpin all of HR’s proactive growth initiatives.
Three key factors are driving an increased focus on compliance in HR teams: global complexity, changes in regulations, and penalties for non-compliance. Each of these is growing in importance, lengthening to-do lists as HR strives to keep up with a fast-changing, complex world, with stronger penalties for getting it wrong.
Despite HR’s essential role in organizational compliance and the costly consequences of failure, not all teams use best practices or the foundation of user-friendly digital solutions. Given the increased burden of responsibility, HR needs — and deserves — a flexible, global HR Service Delivery platform that provides the key capabilities to proactively manage the strategy, process, compliance, and the entire workforce.
HR service delivery for the future
Looking forward, post-pandemic, businesses will continue to expect leadership from HR, to balance productivity and performance with increasingly important employee experiences. With economic uncertainty expected to continue for some time, HR is best-placed to deliver — and be the new beating heart of enterprise around the globe.
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