Human Resource: The strategic partner transforming business
While talking about organizations that prove their excellence in their respective business realms, there’s one ethos that permeates the entire culture-- having clarity of purpose. These organizations then position their critical internal systems, goals, incentives, functions, and activities to accomplish that purpose.
Most successful organizations we see today, be it General Electric, Apple, or Stryker Corporations, have demonstrated their clarity of purpose in achieving their bottom line and capturing a considerable market share. Let’s look at the phrases that remind us of these big-shots:
- General Electric-- “Number 1 or 2 in any business."
- Stryker Corporation-- "20% growth."
- Apple –“Insanely great products”.
These slogans provide a glimpse of the ethos that these organizations follow while conducting their business activities. There is, however, one entity in the entire process that is defining their value system—human resources (HR).
Let’s take Stryker Corporations as an example. The company’s HR transformed the recruiting and selection process to create a pool of talent that would espouse the “20%” belief and aid the company in matching incentives with this purpose. It also created an efficient performance review process to recognize and reward employees for their contributions and efforts.
In the organization's decentralized frame, HR teams strived to execute the change and reinforced the purpose within their respective divisions. It didn't take long for other divisions also to follow in their footsteps while recruiting and selecting employees.
The result of every department tying their objective and processes to the "20% growth" slogan was remarkable. When specific indicators of employee performance correlated with the growth in earnings, the significance of performance reviews surfaced out more prominently.
All of Stryker's HR efforts gave a boost to the morale of employees, who showed an unwavering commitment to the organization's purpose. From creating incentives for employees to establishing a performance review system, HR assumed a more strategic position to become agents of organizational change.
The case of Stryker Corporations is just one of the many instances where the crucial role played by HR stands out. Today HR plays a leadership role in organizations to fuel their growth. It does so by creating positive experiences for employees and retaining them through their career progression. As such, HR provides organizations an edge over their competitors as employers, as they remove their traditional façade to ooze out as social enterprises.
Just like the previous years, 2018 is rolling out to be equally challenging for HR leaders and teams because companies are going global, and millennial population and digitization in workplaces are only on the rise. It’s HR that can help them keep pace with these changes and succeed in a globally competitive scenario.
Here are a few ways in which HR can navigate human capital challenges this year and take businesses closer to their goals in the years to come:
1. Knowing business margins
Sales and revenues are important aspects of companies, but it's ultimately their margins that drive them. Although it is sales that pay the business, margins are the final cut that pays for salaries of employees, cost of technology, and all communication expenses. This is the first aspect that HR needs to understand thoroughly.
The HR department of a company has to understand the organization’s nature before it can dive into filling positions. What is it that it is trying to achieve? Profits? Market share? What is the working style of the organization?
The bottom-line of every business is its people, and HR has to understand its critical role in achieving it. As a strategic role-player in talent acquisition, HR professionals need to develop clarity of their function in driving business margins and giving a competitive edge to the organization. They need to go beyond their traditional talent-recruiting role to aid business strategies and aligning their strategy to it.
In the pursuit of higher margins, HR has to focus on aspects that actually drive margins—whether it’s performance of employees, their ability to hire and let go people, the emergence of new markets, or mergers and acquisitions-- all of which are capable of increasing the competitiveness and bottom-line return of the organization.
Lack of business knowledge on the part of HR can snatch away their ability to communicate or remain competitive in the industry. It’s only when HR understands the vision of the business and communicates it across the organization that it can inspire higher performance, build professional expertise, and bring about innovation.
2. Know the top 2% of people who deliver on the margins and culture
After business margins and different functions, the focal point of HR shifts to a core group of employees, which comprise the top 2% of organizational members, who are delivering those margins of the business. It’s important for HR to know that their functions do not take place in silos. They must understand every team and their needs for gaining the support of the right people.
By finding the top 2% of people, HR tries not to paint the entire organization with the same brush. Instead, it seeks to identify those core members holding leadership positions who need to be treated differently in terms of rewards, monetary benefits, or learning opportunities for their contributions.
If HR doesn't identify people who are important, somebody else will. Focusing on the top 2% of people helps businesses ensure that competitors don’t pick and bag employees who have contributed immensely towards driving margins and business success.
Besides margins, the identified top 2% should also deliver on culture by teaching others about the organization’s work culture, how different operations are carried out, and what is expected of them. Such people prove to be excellent mentors and are capable of creating a sense of belongingness in the organization.
When we talk about culture, we are actually talking about a very dynamic concept that is shaped by the experiences of people. These experiences keep changing with changing social goals and demographic profiles, and HR needs to keep pace with these changes.
HR teams have to hone their knowledge of various inputs that shape an organization's culture and leverage these inputs in a way that creates a positive employee experience.
3. Learn for the future
Acquiring an understanding of margins and teams arms HR professionals with the knowledge of how the business works and who fits into its culture. This micro perspective of the business is undoubtedly essential for HR professionals, but it has to be supplemented with the macro knowledge of the industry. The margins might be coming from a particular line of business, but it's equally crucial for HR to know how the industry at large is shaping up.
Surveys of different organizations revealed that there is a high volume of redundancy in their efforts to achieve greater adaptability and agility in meeting the dynamic needs of consumers, who form the nucleus of business strategies. This happens due to the paucity of skilled professionals.
Building skilled and high-performing teams that exude agility is crucial to the execution of business strategy. How can HR contribute to this? By up-skilling and learning for the future.
HR professionals can find out up-skilling requirements of the organization by keeping track of industry trends. When an industry flourishes to a profitable sector, HR has to focus on creating new talent schemes or up-skilling for mergers and acquisitions to keep pace with time.
When Volkswagen was launching its phone-friendly model called Passat, the carmaker decided to acquire Nokia's R&D team to develop the satellite navigation technology. Did Volkswagen's HR only enhance the skills of its team? No, it also encouraged learning as the organization's cultural nuance.
Such companies often have their goal set on innovation, and HR has to function to turn this goal into a reality. It should infuse the culture of continual learning throughout the organization so that people can adapt to new trends and develop thought leadership in the industry.
4. Invite cultural contribution from people
Creating an enriched employee experience is not a piece of cake for HR professionals. According to the 2018 SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Report, 47% of HR leaders states that employee retention is the foremost challenge they face while executing their workforce management strategies, followed by recruiting employees and managing the corporate culture.
HR can overcome these challenges by creating an open culture where people can contribute their best towards business strategies. It has to invite the entire organization to be a part of a contributory culture, which thrives on diverse ideas, collaborative practices, and shared goals.
When it comes to inviting cultural contribution from people, the first step that HR professionals need to take is to engage employees. To engage employees, HR has to listen to them. Employee feedback programs are a great way to listen to employees and engaging them on a deeper level in the organization. The good news: there are solutions like Hyphen that empower HR departments of organizations with employee listening and engagement capabilities.
From encouraging anonymous bottom-up conversations to providing insightful employee data through sentiment analysis, Hyphen lays the foundation for employee feedback and meaningful employee experiences. The anonymity factor encourages more honest responses from employees as it eliminates the fear of judgment or retribution. It motivates employees to think in an innovative manner and share their ideas, thereby making them feel heard in the organization.
Using employee feedback and listening tools like Hyphen creates a level playing field for all organizational members, whether old or new, experienced or inexperienced, introverts or extroverts. HR has to leverage these kinds of tools to bring rational thinking to the forefront and bring about the desired change in the organization based on the rationale of employees themselves. It is only then that HR will be able to create a diverse but inclusive organization.
5. Create a great place to work
Just like consumers promote the positive attributes of a brand through word-of-mouth and online reviews, employees also promote the brand as an employer, thereby assuming an integral position in an organization’s arsenal of marketing strategies.
Job hunters often go to online review sites for more information on the recruiting company’s culture, people, values, and practices. It’s most likely that these candidates will create a perception of the workplace by checking out reviews of past or existing employees.
Recruiting new talent is an essential role of HR, and it can acquire the best talent precisely when existing employees show the satisfaction they get from working in the organization. The trend is to hire through existing employees, something that has become common to successful brands these days.
Dissatisfaction among employees can happen due to various reasons; some may be unhappy with the administration, leadership interaction, benefits, and a host other practices. The result of such dissatisfaction often leads to high attrition because nobody wants to work there. The worst: potential candidates start developing a negative perception of the company.
The need of the hour for HR professionals is enriching the employee experience by providing career growth opportunities on a continuous basis. Doing so will spread a positive word of mouth and enable HR professionals to paint an employee-friendly picture of the organization in both offline and online spaces.
People will also derive a sense of social status by sharing on social networks that they work for the organization, thereby paving the way for potential employees towards it.
Take the example of Google, which is one of the most coveted companies for tech-enthusiasts. Who doesn’t want to work there? It creates a workplace that breathes creativity and ensures the safety of its employees. With its luxurious and comfortable workspaces to lucrative perks and benefits to global interaction platforms, Google enriches the experiences of employees, who rate this multinational tech giant as one of the best companies to work for.
It's Google's high quality and agile HRM that deserves the credit for the company's success. The company draws the attention of its employees to excellence and smartness and retains them through meticulously designed retention programs. Google’s HRM strategies clearly underline how positive employee perceptions can attract new talent and the critical role of HR in creating employee ambassadors in organizations.
6. Always be hiring
As mentioned earlier, people from the bottom line of businesses, and HR strategies need to align with overall business strategies. While planning for the future, HR professionals must know that it is people who make the difference in executing their strategy.
HR teams need to bring the right people, with the right skill set, at the right time to the organization so as to thrive in a competitive scenario. In short, they need to be in the hiring state of mind always.
HR leaders may be satisfied with their current employees, but if they are not learning or growing or preparing for challenges, they have to look out for people who can make the difference in executing their strategies.
HR needs to find people for the future so that the organization can achieve transformational goals in their existing businesses or enter into new businesses with the talent that it has. It is only when employees have the growth mindset that an organization will be able to achieve its growth objectives.
Organizations have to continue conducting employee referral programs, hackathons, search agency recruiting, university placements, and other hiring programs not only to fill vacancies but also to create a pool of talent that can face future challenges and become essential resources for the execution of their strategies and margins.
7. Simplify by de-prioritizing and automating the mundane
Technology is changing our daily lives, with AI and tech tools making a noise in the HR domain. As adoption of these inventions by businesses increases in 2018, HR professionals have to gear up for a technological revolution.
The most significant advantage of these technologies is that HR teams can de-prioritize tasks by letting the tech handle them. Automation of mundane, time-consuming tasks has become a reality thanks to comprehensive human resource management systems (HRMSs), which have made the job so much simpler for HR professionals.
From recruitment to performance evaluation, payroll management to employee engagement, every aspect of the typical HR function is under the coverage of automation technologies. The change is actually welcome.
The catch, however, lies in choosing the right tech for the HR department.
For example, organizations could opt for tech that will simplify the recruiting process. With the increase in an organization's salience, it's natural for the HR team to get a barrage of job applications. But are all applications worth the lengthy manual scan?
Perhaps no. The tech in question should be able to filter out irrelevant job applications and highlight candidates who may be of particular interest to the recruiter. It should be appropriate for both inbound and outbound recruiting methods, especially when the organization has gained prominence in the industry.
Besides winnowing out the best job application, these technologies can also help organizations in automating the mundane tasks.
Let’s take payroll management for example. This HR operation can be automated for the timely payment of salaries to employees and closure of payroll. The aim of technology is to simplify processes and improving them for greater agility and focus.
Sentiment analysis is another aspect that can be automated with the help of technology. This operation, being the foundation for employee engagement, can be conducted by leveraging AI and machine learning, which gift HR with a gamut of insightful data. This data, in turn, can be used to address different pain-points of employees and engage them on a much deeper level. It's when HR leverages the present-day technologies that their processes become more efficient, thereby leading to the creation of a powerful employee base that is all set for the future.
Organizations in 2018 will undoubtedly undergo a transformation as the current business scenario adapts to the digital disruption and transits towards a highly perceptive model. HR too is catching up to the transformation.
We can only look forward to 2019, which is likely to bring new HR challenges as competition increases, economic, legal, and political scenarios change, and the demand for a growth-focused work culture soars. As such, HR leaders have has to know the nitty-gritty of the organization’s functioning, empower employee communities, and continue developing agility to make 2019 a successful year for the entire organization.