Key Questions HR Should be Asking

With the Garden State Council SHRM conference and expo in Atlantic City, NJ ending and CIPD’s Annual Conference and Exhibition in Manchester, UK coming up, it appears that autumn is the time for HR conferences!

Conferences and Expos are great opportunities to catch up on cutting-edge innovation, and get an insight into the products and services that are out there to support the HR function – particularly at a time when there’s so much discussion about the profession’s role and how to future-proof.

So, if you’re conference-bound (or even if you’re not), what are the key topics you should be paying attention to – and what questions should you be asking yourself and potential suppliers?

Are you handling people processes efficiently?

It’s astonishing how many HR people are still attached to their spreadsheets when there are so many quicker and easier ways to manage core people processes. The problem with spreadsheets is that they are often out-of-date, easily corrupted – and with numerous versions flying around between departments – there is no central source of ‘truth’. The latest HR software eradicates these problems and takes away most of the time-consuming admin that occupies valuable HR time. Technology has moved on, sophisticated systems can help even the smallest companies manage everything from absence to performance. If you can’t make it to a conference, it’s easy to access demos online.

Are you communicating with your people in the way they want?

We are in a digital age and employees (particularly digital natives/millennials) expect communication to be open 24-7. They want to be able to access the information they need at the click of a mouse; they want just-in-time learning; and they expect to be able to collaborate and network easily with peers online. The latest HR systems come with a self-service element that means employees can simply log on from wherever they are and update their personal details, check on time-off, submit absence requests and access key company information. Everything is much quicker and more efficient – and employees are able to communicate in a way that is natural to them.

Are you behind the curve or ahead of it?

How up-to-date is your HR technology? Are you taking advantage of all the great features available? Are people in your team IT-savvy and interested in HR analytics and its role in supporting key business decisions? The pages of the HR press have been hot with debate over recent months over the issue of Big Data and what it means for HR, especially after the HR Tech Conference earlier this month. Sadly, it’s still a bit of a foreign language for many HR people and there’s an urgent need for professionals not just to update their knowledge of what’s out there – but also build the skills they will need to report on data at their fingertips to its fullest extent.

Are you managing performance effectively?

Is your performance management process a ‘live’ tool that really helps managers get the best out of their team? Or is it a box ticking exercise where people go through the motions of the annual assessment but nothing really changes? There are so many businesses where poor performance gets pushed under the carpet, resulting in impact on team morale, or talented people leaving because their skills are not recognized and their potential is not being fulfilled. Technology can’t replace the honest and meaningful conversations that managers need to have with their teams, but it can provide a framework to make sure appraisals and informal check-ins happen when they’re meant to. HR systems centrally house information about employees’ skills and aspirations, making it easy to keep information and follow through with agreed developments.

Do you know how your people are thinking and feeling?

Numerous studies have shown that engaged employees are more productive, loyal and willing to go the extra mile. HR has a huge part to play in developing engagement in the business, and in equipping line managers to build motivated and enthusiastic teams. In the past, companies have typically tested the waters of the business through the annual employee survey. Thanks to technology, feedback from employees no longer has to be a one-off event. Some of the latest HR systems (like Cezanne HR, for instance) come with integral social portals, which allow the business to invite and respond to feedback from employees on an on-going basis. It supports innovation by making it easier to act on new and exciting ideas, encourages collaboration between people who wouldn’t normally work together, and leads to a much more vibrant, fast-moving business environment.

Which conferences will you be attending (or have already attended) this year, and what are you most looking forward to learning more about?

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