Companies are entering what optimists predict will be a year of full-fledged digital transformation, reshaping everything including how organizations manage their biggest assets – people. Here are two resolutions for human resources (HR) professionals, who have an unprecedented opportunity in 2016 to become a strategic business partner in this new era.
1. Stop acting like it’s okay for senior executives to squander the time of employees.
A huge part of HR”s role is making sure that employees are engaged and productive. This means calling out proposed senior-level executive decisions that negatively impact employee performance and work quality. When it comes to blanket decisions like technology roll-outs, hiring freezes and travel bans that originate elsewhere in the organization, HR’s typical involvement is figuring out how to communicate the disruption and policy enforcement to employees. Instead, HR should be part of the decision-making process. Vigorously push back on things that make executives happy and employees miserable.
“HR needs to stand up and explain the impact of major decisions on the workforce. That doesn’t mean you’ll always get your way, but you should be part of and influence every important people-related conversation taking place,” said Steve Hunt, Vice President of Customer Value at SAP SuccessFactors. “For example, a hiring freeze typically isn’t implemented fairly anyway, and will backfire long term. Companies lose top talent that isn’t easy to replace along with their market reputation as an employer of choice. Meantime, current employees are demotivated and burned out, reducing productivity even more.”
Hunt said he’d like to see a policy requiring executives to experience what it’s like to use administrative systems employees are forced to use. “Let them experience what life is like in the company for those people who don’t have administrative assistants to complete procurement and other processes for them, and whose requests for help are not immediately answered based on their position in the organization.”
2. Get proficient with the right technology – fast.
It’s impossible to implement a sustainable HR practice without technology. I’ve blogged before about HR’s often uneven alliance with IT. What’s important this year is understanding which tools are the right ones for the company. When bringing innovations into the workplace, treat employees like customers. According to Leslie Apony, Manager of Customer Value and Adoption at SAP SuccessFactors, simplification plays a huge role in not squandering human capital.
“It’s great that companies have performance management tools, but employees need a way to achieve end results faster,” she said. “You would never give a customer massive amounts of information and expect them to spend hours making sense of it. Give employees the tools they need to do their job efficiently. Sometimes companies over train, which can be worse than under training.”
Admittedly, it’s the bold HR leader who’s willing to speak up and represent the employee’s actual experience with dreadful company policies. But that’s the only way HR can do its job, which after all, is making sure the company has effective employees, and that employees are being effectively used. HR happens to be one of the few places in business where treating people right generates the right results. Engaged workers are more productive workers, and that’s the real business value of HR in the digital era.
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