How to create a culture of HR excellence in summary:

  • The annual HR Excellence Awards serve as a great example of the impact creative HR can have on a business.
  • To create you own culture of excellence, focus on winning the support of the CEO, know the business inside-out, and support its growth.
  • In addition, continually develop your own expertise, and embrace technology to help you do & achieve more.

With the end of the year fast approaching, one of the more glamorous events on the HR calendar is the 2023 HR Excellence Awards ceremony.

This year, the prestigious event will be taking place in the heart of London. The Awards provide a chance to celebrate HR professionals who, despite coming from organisations of all shapes and sizes, are the powerhouses of change in people strategy.

And, with over 20 different awards up for grabs – from Best Employee Engagement Strategy, to HR Team of the Year and HR Future Leader of the Year – it’s shaping up to be a hugely competitive event.

How to create a culture of HR excellence Cezanne HR Blog

However, it’s very easy for this type of event to be missed. After all the end of the calendar year can be one of the busiest periods for HR teams!

Year-end reviews and evaluations, compensation planning and benefits reviews, budgeting and planning for the year ahead… not to mention wrapping up the usual yearly reporting and coordination of the preparing for the annual clamour for festive annual leave requests.

It’s a critical period for HR to complete the current year’s activities, plan for the year ahead, and ensure compliance with legal and organisational requirements. As a result, glitzy award ceremonies may not be a top priority as we enter the winter months. However, ignoring this type of event – or more importantly, the achievements and innovations they highlight – would be a mistake…

HR excellence: more than just a fad

The HR Excellence Awards serve as a significant recognition and celebration of exemplary achievements and innovations within the realm of Human Resources – and this is really important.

In today’s turbulent business environment, organisations large and small are increasingly recognising the critical role that a high-performing HR teams play in reaching their strategic goals. HR are now an established voice in the C-Suite – and rightly so! But, maintaining and strengthening that voice requires an ongoing culture of HR excellence. Something the Awards aim to highlight for others to aspire to…

The awards serve as a great example of the impact creative HR can have on the success of a business and, perhaps most importantly, the way people feel about their employer.

So, what can you do to push people management practices forward, create a culture of HR excellence in your business, and perhaps even be a contender for a future HR Excellence award? Here’s some tips for your consideration…

Win the support of the CEO

Business owners know they need an HR department, but they don’t always appreciate the benefits a strategic approach to HR can bring to the bottom line.

Getting the MD to see HR as an enabler and driver of growth – rather than just another administrative business overhead – can be a real challenge, especially in the heady, early days of an SME when the focus is on growth and getting the goods or services out of the door.

If you are to gain the confidence of the CEO, you need to show a clear understanding of the challenges the business is facing and to be able to demonstrate how people processes can support the strategic direction. Having up-to-date people data at your fingertips – such as your company’s rates of staff turnover for example – can help you greatly improve your influence with the leadership team.

If they can see your HR processes are providing them with information to support strategic decisions (on areas like skills needs and recruitment for example) they are much more likely to develop respect for the role HR can play in taking the business forward.

Know what stage the business is at

Every business will go through periods of transition. Whether that’s because of sustained growth or a change in strategic objectives, it’s vital you identify what stage of transition your business is at and assess whether your current people management approach is delivering what the business needs.

In the early days, for example, many businesses will still have what the CIPD defines as ‘entrepreneurial edge’.  They are typically informal with fluid structures, flexible job roles and often no formal HR person or department.

As the business becomes an ‘emerging enterprise’, it tends to adopt a slightly more formal approach. Some policies and processes are put in place, but the business still tends to be reactive rather than strategic in its approach to things like recruitment.

The next stage is ‘consolidating organisation’ where the business strategy is planned rather than emergent and there are typically more layers of management. In the final stage, ‘established organisation’, HR needs to become more forward-looking in order to set the business up for long term success. Ask yourself what stage you are at – and whether your current HR approach fits the bill?

Take this example from data analytics firm Sagacity, who realised after a period of sustained success, their engrained HR processes were simply not up to the task of sustaining that all-important business growth…

“We decided to invest in HR software to help support our growth. As we grew, we recognised the fact that we needed more robust HR systems and procedures in place. We had so many spreadsheets containing lots of different and disjointed information. As a business, we knew this wasn’t a sustainable way of doing things.

We had individual employee files that had certain elements that others didn’t… it was just a bit all over the place. And, of course from a GDPR perspective, data security is incredibly important, and our previous processes just weren’t up to scratch.” – Sagacity. Read the full case study

Support – don’t stifle

As a business grows, there comes a point where knee-jerk reactions are no longer appropriate and policies and processes have to be put in place, for the sake of both efficiency and legal compliance.

It’s important, however, to make sure that the systems you introduce don’t inadvertently stifle innovation or make people’s lives more difficult. The key is to streamline and automate your people management processes and make it easy for managers to lead their teams – rather than introduce systems which are prescriptive and overly-bureaucratic.

Technology can do much to help in this respect and support sustained HR excellence. Automating absence and annual leave processes, for example, can take time-consuming admin away from line managers so they can concentrate on developing new products and services and meeting customer needs.

Continually develop expertise

Keeping up with future HR trends and practices is vital if HR continues to be a vibrant, influential part of the C-suite. However, if you and your HR team are bogged down by carrying out the menial day-to-day tasks and administration, it can be difficult to focus on developing more value-adding knowledge.

Embracing technology – as mentioned earlier – will free you and your HR team from the menial tasks that can sap time and prevent keeping abreast of HR best practices. So, set time aside to make sure you understand the market your business operates in and what challenges it’s likely to face going forward. Network with HR professionals to find out how they are approaching common HR issues and take an active part in your local CIPD group to make sure you are aware of the latest research and best practice.

Embrace technology

Even in established and successful businesses, it’s quite common for employee data to be managed across a series of Excel spreadsheets which get passed around the business between managers. But, as the business grows, there comes a point where this is no longer viable – as our case study excerpt demonstrated earlier.

No-one knows who has the latest version and there’s a danger that data security can be compromised. Moving to an automated HR solution may seem a terrifying prospect at first, but you will soon find that getting to grips with technology is a liberating experience which will free you from time-consuming admin and allow you to concentrate on the more strategic aspects of your role.

The latest generation HR software can not only streamline absence and performance management processes, it also has the capability to re-energise communication, make people feel valued and drive creativity and innovation within teams. HR systems are also a rich mine of information which the business can use to spot trends (such as rising absence levels for example), identify skills gaps and inform key strategic decisions.

The CIPD has a useful tool for those with responsibility for people management within growing businesses. However, you do have to be a member to access it here.  It includes an organisational stock-take, practical exercises, action planning tools and case study examples to help you take your HR practice to the next level.

Remember that creating a culture of excellence in HR is an ongoing process that requires dedication, adaptability, and a willingness to evolve as both your organisation and industry landscapes change. It’s important to regularly assess progress, gather feedback, and make adjustments to ensure that the culture of excellence is sustained over time.

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Author bio

Kim Holdroyd has an MSc in HRM and is passionate about all things HR and people operations, specialising in the employee life cycle, company culture, and employee empowerment. Her career background has been spent with various industries, including technology start-ups, gaming software, and recruitment.

Kim Holdroyd author image

Kim Holdroyd

HR & Wellbeing Manager

Kim Holdroyd has an MSc in HRM and is passionate about all things HR and people operations, specialising in the employee life cycle, company culture, and employee empowerment. Her career background has been spent with various industries, including technology start-ups, gaming software, and recruitment.

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