Are your people processes enabling employees to work to their potential? Are your HR initiatives making a measurable difference to the bottom line?
If you’re an HR professional (or the person in the business with responsibility for HR) here are five steps you can take to improve your impact:
Put your business hat on
According to Henley Business School’s Centre for HR Excellence, effective HR professionals should see themselves “primarily as business people who happen to work in HR”. Henley’s research indicates that CEOs want HR people who understand the business’ challenges and can operate at strategic level as part of the leadership team. Lack of commercial know-how is a criticism that’s frequently directed – fairly or unfairly – at HR people. If they are to improve their influence at senior level, they need to demonstrate a deep understanding of the market the business is operating in, the direction it’s heading in, and the future challenges it will face. Only then can they come up with the people strategies that will make a real impact.
Be part of the team
In the latest issue of People Management magazine, Esther O’Halloran reveals how when she first stepped into the HR Director role at patisserie and coffee chain Paul, she donned her white safety shoes and ventured into the kitchen, even though it meant visiting bakers working shifts that finished at 3am. HR people can only really make a difference if they understand what’s happening on the front-line of the business. It’s about talking to line managers, finding out what their real challenges are, and how HR can support them in getting the best out of their teams; it’s about getting a sense of what it’s really like for employees and where the difficulties lie. Then, using their input and ideas to organize work in the best possible way and engage people more effectively. The people who are out there doing the work are often the ones who know how the job can be done more effectively.
Be an influencer not a gatekeeper
HR is often seen as the inhibitor rather than the enabler that helps make working better. Policies and procedures are of course important, but HR people need to make sure the ‘rules’ are helping the company achieve its objectives – not just getting in the way. Taking a balanced approach is important, and that’s often best achieved by talking to others in the business. Is a social media policy necessary, or can you work on trust? Do employees really understand what’s driving your health and safety policy, or is there a better way of articulating it?
Get to grips with technology
Technology can support an increased strategic role for HR in two ways: first by automating many routine activities, like calculating absence entitlements, or chasing up overdue holiday approvals or performance reviews, therefore reducing the administrative burden on HR practitioners (and often line managers and employees too) and freeing time to focus on more value-added activities; and second by providing the data needed for accurate and reliable HR decision-making.
I was taken by a visual that turned up on LinkedIn this week. Big data, it said, is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it and everyone thinks they should be doing it because everyone else is. Unless you have a huge amount of employees, many of the tools and techniques available are going to have limited relevance – for statistical reasons if nothing else. However, many of today’s modern HR systems include built-in analytics that make it easier to see data (of the perfect size for you) that can be used to drive key business decisions.
Vamp up HR communication
I was at an event last week where the subject of HR communications was hotly debated. The consensus was that HR people are often doing great things, but not communicating them to people effectively. So the business may have a great flexible working policy, for example, but managers don’t really understand how to put it into practice or how they can use it to create a win-win situation for the employee and the organization. Or, they may offer a fantastic range of benefits, but because employees don’t fully understand what’s on offer or appreciate the value of it, they complain that they are not appropriately rewarded, and start to look elsewhere. If HR people want to make sure their initiatives really land with people, they need to work much more closely with marketing and communications teams to make sure they are getting the message out there and communicating with people in a way that resonates.
What else can the profession do to make a real difference? Leave your comments on the blog, or hit me up on Twitter! @CezanneHR