From Personnel to People Ops: The Evolution of HR - The Power of Collaboration in HR [eBook]
Elevate your HR presence to become a strategic business partner!
by GoCo - January 3rd, 2023
HR can be a lonely place. Because of the nature of the job and all the sensitive information you dabble in each day, it’s rare that HR professionals can share much with others outside of the HR
function. And yet, as the HR department evolves, we’re seeing a growing need for collaboration that will help to foster a people-first culture.
In case you missed it, you can check out Episode 1: Moving From Paper-First to People-First HR in our From Personnel to People Ops: The Evolution of HR series. Now, let’s talk about how collaborating outside of the HR office plays a role in creating a people-centric workplace.
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Trends in the Future of Work
The workplace is constantly evolving. In the last ten years, we’ve witnessed tremendous shifts in how companies are using technology throughout their operations, including the HR department. Just in the last couple of years, we’ve seen many companies rethink the workplace as a whole, namely in where work is performed and the time and duties it requires.
Prior to 2020—when COVID disrupted the workplace as we know it—no one could have predicted the size and scope of changes we experienced. With this in mind, we take predictions about the future of work with a grain of salt. But a few key trends reveal some potential possibilities that HR professionals should prepare for now.
Employees Want Flex Work and Expect HR to Deliver It
Flexible work existed prior to the pandemic, but mandatory workplaces closures, social distancing precautions, and a shift to working from home accelerated the flex work trend. Flex work doesn’t solely mean working from home but rather offering the flexibility to choose schedules, work locations, and other specifics. For many companies, flexible work arrangements have revolutionized the employee experience in ways that truly make work work.
Two years later, though, many companies have faced resistance as they try to bring their employees back to the office. Rising employee expectations are challenging HR like never before (and will likely continue to do so) to provide authentic, tailored workforce experiences that empower people to do their best work.
HR plays an integral role in figuring out what flexible work looks like and how it can be applied successfully to a company’s specific ecosystem. Staggered start and finish times, turning some full-time positions into part-time roles, job sharing, compressed or extended schedules, and remote work are just a few solutions that offer flexible working standards.
HR Is Leading the Agile Workplace Movement
HR provided a much-needed lifeline for organizations during the worst part of the pandemic. But ask anyone in HR, and they’ll tell you it was simply all in a day’s work. We’re no strangers to preparing and leading organizations through a crisis, and we do so with agility and confidence, no matter how unexpected.
It’s also worth noting that most of us have never been through a crisis like the pandemic. It has created brand new territory for HR, with a steep learning curve and lots of what-ifs. The COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly not the last crisis that HR professionals will see. But now, HRs will be able to apply their newfound skills and knowledge to whatever future crises arise.
This shift to become an agile workplace underscores the idea that HR transformation is a continuous journey, not a single project. With the world of work changing at breakneck speeds, organizations need to remain committed to the ongoing evolution of HR.
People Analytics-Based Insights Will Drive Business Impact
Living in the era of Big Data, it’s no surprise that people-based analytics will become critical to the success of HR. People analytics can help reveal more about hiring trends, turnover rates, user experience across the employee lifecycle, employee engagement, and other details.
The Academy to Innovate HR shares seven core people analytics that impact business decisions:
Workforce planning analytics
Talent sourcing analytics
Talent acquisition/hiring analytics
Onboarding and engagement analytics
Employee lifetime value and performance management analytics
Talent attrition and retention analytics
Employee wellness, health, and safety analytics
Using these people analytics to their full potential spans several phases. First, companies should be prepared to dig into data that matters, then experiment, explore, and enrich that data. Organizations also need to have an action plan ready to act on that data while avoiding legal loopholes and creating leaner systems. When done well, data can contribute to a fact-based, measurable HR business strategy that can be supported by technology to keep this data cycle going.
Over time, people analytics in HR teams will continue to evolve beyond just data reporting and collection. People data will be intrinsic to driving business impact across all organizations.
HR Automation Will Elevate the Role of HR
Automation is often thought of as the process of removing the people function and replacing it with machines—a definition that would surely mean stripping the “human” part out of human resources. But with HR automation, that’s not the case.
HR automation aims to free up HR leaders’ time to focus on things that really matter. What’s more, it allows HR leaders to take on more of a leadership role across organizations. Automation focuses on repetitive, mundane tasks that usually go on behind the scenes and don’t affect people-facing functions.
When applied correctly, HR automation can improve efficiency, boost communication and collaboration, reduce paper-based processing costs, reduce errors, provide actionable data-driven insights, and create a positive experience for job candidates and employees. It’s meant to support, not substitute, the human element of HR.
Based on the current availability of HR automation, areas like recruitment and screening, onboarding and offboarding, scheduling and time management, employee requests, and records management stand to gain the most from these technologies.
DEI Will Become a Bigger Topic in HR
In recent years, organizations have become more aware of the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). As a result, HR professionals have been working to increase DEI within their organizations.
HR professionals play a crucial role in creating a workplace that is inclusive for all employees. They are responsible for developing policies and procedures that promote diversity and prevent discrimination. Additionally, HR professionals provide training on DEI topics such as unconscious bias and microaggressions.
Organizations that value DEI enjoy numerous benefits. Employees feel more engaged and productive when they feel like they belong in the workplace. A diverse workforce helps organizations be more innovative and better equipped to serve their customer base.
Companies still have a long way to go when it comes to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Employees already expect and deserve more than just hollow words. Over the last couple of years, companies that have never done anything with DEI have started programs and strategies. It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s going to take more than just a statement on a website to make DEI stick.
Companies—and HR—need to be prepared to listen, learn, and acknowledge in ways that matter to employees. There needs to be an intentional, holistic strategy that weaves DEI throughout the fabric of the organization. HR can help shape this by leading with compassion, courage, empathy, and accountability.
What It Means to Be an Agile Business Leader
Preparing for the above HR trends (and others) requires business leaders to remain agile in how they think and operate. The “agile” approach as we know it started in the software industry, where individuals and interactions were prioritized over processes and tools. Leaders didn’t want to create a plan and stick to it; rather, they preferred to respond to change as needed.
For those used to working in a methodical manner, becoming an agile leader can pose quite a challenge. But HR is seeing a growing need to follow an agile approach for several reasons.
For starters, HR has experienced significant changes in capabilities. It’s no longer just the department that hires, onboards, and handles benefits—HR leaders are indispensable experts when it comes to employee engagement, workplace trends, instructional design, social recruiting, and even data. HR is skilled in user experience. It’s a culture champion and a social activist. And it’s all of these things at once.
Given the size and scope of the HR department, an agile approach provides value here.
For example, HR typically works in an annual rhythm when it comes to certain functions, like benefits. Breaking out of this rhythm to work in shorter loops enables HR to pivot multiple times during the year and add impact when and where it’s needed.
Agility also applies to cross-functional teams that involve HR. Collaborating with other departments and individuals to solve a unique people-related problem can help HR earn buy-in on ideas, gain different perspectives, and develop people-centric solutions.
Organization-Wide Metrics That HR Can Impact
Like many other departments, HR is increasingly focusing on metrics that help it gauge performance. These metrics come from a range of data sources, including employee demographics, pay, engagement, performance, and applicant tracking systems. After combining this data into a single data set, HR can start to analyze patterns and build predictive models about the employee ecosystem.
What Are HR Metrics?
HR metrics (also called HR key performance indicators, or KPIs) allow you to measure how well your HR initiatives are performing and how they contribute to the overall success of the organization.
But you’re a people person, not a data person. So why should you care about HR metrics?
For starters, what gets measured gets managed. Let’s say you’re trying to reduce your employee attrition. If you don’t know what your current rate of attrition is, it’s hard to know where to plug the leak.
Metrics can also lead to better decision-making. You’re making decisions based on data, not hunches, guesswork, bias, or emotion.
And when you make better decisions, you also improve the overall employee experience. Data shines a light on all aspects of your business and answers questions you haven’t even thought to ask. Dig into the data to see how engaged your employees are, who is most likely to leave, which managers are having the most trouble keeping people, and so much more.
How to Use HR Metrics
We know that HR metrics provide value. But how do you use them?
The first step: Identify goals before you choose your metrics. Work backward from your organizational goals to decide which metrics to track. There’s a lot of data you could measure, but it’s best to focus on the data that makes the most sense to your goals (the rest is just noise). You can meet with your company leaders, HR team, and other key stakeholders to agree on priorities and focus areas to make sure you have access to the right data to track.
Next up: Focus on the metrics that are actionable for your company. Don’t fall into the trap of measuring data you can’t act on in the near future. HRs need to be able to answer two questions with data: “So what?” and “Now What?”
Last but not least: Determine which metrics apply to which departments and measure them accordingly. Not every data point will apply to every team member in the company. Evaluate whether metrics are meaningful and have strategic value for each department.
11 Key HR Metrics to Foster Collaboration and Business Impact
Part of leveraging data in HR is knowing which metrics to track. Common HR metrics include:
Absence per manager
Employee productivity index
Training expenses per employee
Training effectiveness index
Voluntary turnover rate
Talent turnover rate
Retention rate per manager
There are hundreds of things you can measure and even more detailed metrics within the above 11 key ones. These metrics can be telling in their own right. But they can also reveal more about your organization when measured in conjunction with each other.
For example, if you notice an employee has a high absence rate and a low productivity rating, it’s easy to see how those two things correlate. If several employees under the same manager have a high absence rate and low productivity or happiness ratings, it might be something worth investigating further.
How to Collaborate in HR
Understanding and rising to workplace trends, assuming an agile approach, and measuring success via HR metrics all hinge on HR’s ability to collaborate. It truly takes a village to make an organization work, and HR plays an increasingly important role in shaping the workplace and bridging the gaps between employees and leadership.
By the very nature of the position, HR needs to excel in sharing ideas, improving the employee experience, and carving a space in the future of work. It can do all of the above by collaborating in three key areas:
With HR Colleagues
Having friends and colleagues in HR can be a great starting point for collaboration. It gives you some perspective outside of your own company to see how other organizations handle certain issues or respond to certain workplace trends. Working with other HRs can help you ask better questions and gain insights into things that aren’t on your radar.
This is especially important for HR departments of one. When you’re on your own little island, it’s beneficial to know other people who do what you do. Company leaders or managers can only help to an extent. They’re not in the weeds of HR day in and day out like you are. Having industry connections can help you become even better at the HR function.
Also, consider taking an open-source approach to your work. We hear this term a lot in software development, where developers have shared codes they’ve created for others to use for free. This same concept is now being applied in HR, where other HRs are sharing resources, documents, processes, policies, and tools they’ve created. HRs can use these ready-made helpers instead of reinventing the wheel. If possible, return the favor with resources that you’ve created.
With Other Departments
Multiple departments (think marketing, finance, sales, etc.) make up the organization as a whole. Oftentimes, these departments operate as siloes. They each have different needs and priorities, but it’s important to bridge the gap between departments so the organization can function as one. This enables every employee to become more engaged and better at their jobs.
To build these bridges between departments, HRs can do one or more of the following:
Provide context. Show how each department’s work contributes to the organization’s overall success.
Cultivate empathy. Help employees show care and compassion for each other’s contributions.
Develop a common language. Speaking in the same terms helps establish familiarity and good communication.
Get involved in other department processes. Help departments collaborate with each other to see cross-functionality firsthand.
Facilitate consistent communications. Make good communication an ongoing priority.
Set the tone. Lead by example and show the benefits of good cross-department collaboration.
Celebrate the wins. No matter how big or small, celebrations give employees a sense of purpose.
Encourage feedback. Ask for feedback to gain more perspective on what’s working and what’s not.
Foster trust. Building trust between departments and employees creates stronger relationships.
Promote an environment of psychological safety. Help employees feel confident about giving feedback and doing their jobs.
Provide an informal venue. Allow the mental guards to come down so employees can be themselves. Getting out of the workplace setting can help employees build stronger connections with each other.
Each of these ideas becomes more effective when paired together. They complement each other when fostering collaboration and encourage employees to seek out collaboration on their own.
Collaborating with employees takes a “codesigning” approach in which employees take an active role in shaping their workplace experiences. Think about it: when you’re building something for your employees, you want them to use and benefit from it. They need to be involved in this process so they can tell you what’s going to be most beneficial for them.
Codesigning and employee collaboration are reasons why many HRs get into HR in the first place. We want to be the voice of the people and make the workplace better for everyone. We might know what we’d like to see as employees of a company. But we also bear a responsibility to include others’ preferences, wants, and needs in this process.
Everything we’ve shared in this guide, from becoming an agile leader to using data and metrics to track organizational performance to uncovering workplace trends, comes down to creating optimal employee experiences. The decisions we make in HR are made for our people and should be made in part by our people.
Despite how isolating HR can be, we don’t (and can’t) do it alone. The importance of HR collaboration cannot be understated. By working with HR colleagues, department stakeholders, and employees, HR professionals can identify and solve problems more effectively, share best practices, and develop new strategies for managing the workforce.
Part of effective HR collaboration involves having the right data to support decisions and find new areas of opportunity. Comprehensive HR software like GoCo can provide insights at scale, from things like training and onboarding to turnover to performance management and more. GoCo helps HRs keep employees engaged and save time on admin tasks so they can focus more on shaping employee experiences. When HRs can get out from under the normal HR workload, they can spend more time developing and improving the very thing that makes HR a necessity—the employees.