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How to Optimise Your HR Function in 2021

Whenever we assess risk in business, there’s a category that’s hard to build a strategy for: unknown unknowns. Well, 2020 brought one to the fore and, while we might not have been able to plan for the disruption caused by coronavirus, we have certainly learnt how to react.

The job of business leaders is to equip their organisations for a less bumpy ride in the future. While we can’t know what scenarios we will face, we can ensure that we have a clear view of our business, our people and that we are in a position to utilise data to help us with decision making.

HR leaders will find themselves at the heart of post-pandemic transformations, due to the sheer amount of data they handle and also because any future plans should place people front and centre, ensuring a positive employee experience can be achieved, whatever the landscape.

So, let’s start there. How can you optimise your HR function for the new normal?

Create The Right Connectivity

The massive surge in home working driven by the pandemic is one scenario that is getting airtime around board tables globally. Keeping in touch with people – in a positive way – and recognising their issues, as well as keeping business messaging alive, is a challenge that needs tackling to ensure we can address mental health and poor employee experience properly.

There are a few critical success factors to achieving the right solution:

  • Dialogue must be fully integrated. Informal chats are just as powerful and relevant as formal 1-2-1 meetings and all types of connection need to be easily accessible and part of an agile, adaptable approach to people management;
  • Connections must be on a business and social level, to ensure employees have the opportunity to continue building relationships as they would in an office environment;
  • Training is essential to ensure the right quality and emphasis of conversations. Lockdown has brought quality of leadership and management into sharp relief.

Stephen Bevan, Head of HR Research at the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), contributed to a recent report from Jigsaw Cloud and People Management Insight, stating “employers need to ensure their systems and processes are sufficiently robust enough to support the mental health of their staff permanently”.

By using technology as a solution to the problems of remote working, organisations can be more in touch with all aspects of employee health and wellbeing, from feelings of isolation to monitoring individual and team performance.

Embrace AI And Automate

People are afraid of AI because they worry it might take away their job, but Dave Coplin, founder of The Envisioners and another contributor to the report from Jigsaw Cloud and People Management Insight explains that it’s neither artificial nor intelligent, but is actually automation.

HR teams will gain more than most when it comes to automation with admin typically consuming 60% of their role. Rather than removing the need for people, technology deals with the grunt-work and frees up the team to add real value.

Because of its increased popularity, AI technology is reducing in price and is therefore within the reach of many SMEs who previously could not have considered it.

Technology can be used in many ways to improve employee experience, from simply providing the platform for social check-ins to proactively assessing the wellbeing of employees.           

In future, businesses will increase agility to cope with emerging situations, and freeing up over half of the HR resource to work on strategy and innovation that drives real improvement will be a quick win.

Refocus Your Definition Of Success

Trust has long been a factor in the success or failure of businesses, but the pandemic has thrown a new light on an age-old issue: can employers trust employees to put in the hours when they aren’t at their desk?

This attitude has been reinforced by old-fashioned performance assessments which involve ticking boxes to determine whether certain activities have been completed. Stephen Bevan believes the pandemic is “…. getting managers to decide what they value most: inputs, like the number of hours they spend at their screens or the number of emails they send, or outputs, such as creativity, innovation, collaboration and quality of the work they produce.”

These less tangible outputs are easily measured by technology such as SAP SuccessFactors and, by adopting a solution which links employee performance to training and development opportunities and physical or mental health considerations, companies can work towards a positive employee experience.

Stay focused on the positive though; a more worrying capability of technology is surveillance. This certainly isn’t part of a people-focused approach.

In summary, we can do much more by optimising and automating tasks that use time in the working day. By valuing how we use our workforce, we can improve employee experience by spending time where it really adds value. Then we’ll be ready for the new normal, whatever it may hold.

If you’d like to discuss how HR technology can play a role in addressing the new normal, get in touch

You may also be interested in reading our blog, 3 reasons to prioritise employee experience in the new normal.

Find out about the crucial role HR technology plays in today’s new normal with our Free Guide to HR Technology and Employee Experience

Download the Guide

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Find out about the crucial role HR technology plays in today’s new normal with our Free Guide to HR Technology and Employee Experience