HR departments are the last thing fast growing companies pay attention to. In the race to become lean hypergrowth machines, many executives in the tech industry see HR simply as a nice to have, if not a symbol of the corporate culture they want to avoid. While it’s become common to start off without an HR department, now we’re seeing fast growing companies reach past the 50 person mark without any formal HR in sight.
With the onslaught of HR tech tools many companies are opting instead to buy solutions that will take care of everything from recruitment & onboarding to payroll and L&D. This is not only a trend affecting startups, bigger companies are now beginning to use HR tools to decentralize many processes placing them into the hands of managers and even the users themselves.
Unfortunately, HR has been relegated to the equivalent of the office hall monitor for way too long. Is this the end of the HR profession? Are we moving towards an age when HR can be completely replaced by tech?
What tools can do:
People want choices. They want to be able to have some sort of control over the processes that affect them and not have to deal with paperwork or waiting. In this fast moving digital age there is an app for everything , including traditional HR functions such as: recruitment, onboarding, payroll, perks and vacation tracking, performance management and L&D. Self-service is becoming a trend, not only in our personal lives but also in the workplace.
Is HR still needed?
The answer is, more than ever. The millennial workforce is much more demanding than any other generation. What’s more, they’re much less likely to stick around if their demands aren’t met. A recent article by Gallup demonstrated that millennials are the generation that’s least engaged in the workplace and most likely to switch jobs, with six in ten saying they would be open to new job opportunities. Today with new tech tools that help your competitors recruit, even passive candidates, there’s no time to lose.
This means that employers need to create a more hands on unique experience to keep young talent engaged starting the day they come in the door. This includes curating and integrating tools into customized processes to make them more efficient, employee focused and reflect a company’s unique employer brand. Ultimately, tech tools are facilitators, not solutions. It’s now HR’s job to design a new type of organization that caters to the needs of its employees. Here are four ways the role of HR will change due to the rise of HR tech:
Creating the Employee Experience
Creating the ultimate employee experience has been recognized in Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends Report for the past few years as the key to attracting, retaining and engaging talent. No employee experience program should be the same. To not only attract talent but to attract the right talent, it’s essential to create a unique employer brand. With the rise of websites like Glassdoor, the more time HR spends creating a great experience for current employees, the more likely they’ll become brand ambassadors for the company.
Likewise, your people are different, give them options… but not too many. One of the most important roles Deloitte foresaw in its 2016 report was the need for HR to become a curator for this overly connected generation. With so many options for eLearning tools, communication channels and perks available, sometimes what this generation needs is a guide who can select and whittle down the vast array of distractions and choices presented on a daily basis.
While traditional HR functions may be moving more towards user oriented self-service, it’s HR’s job to choose tools that meet their people’s needs and work best within the organizational framework they’ve designed.
Another key aspect of creating the ultimate employee experience is to reinvent and rehabilitate decades old processes that employees distrust or even hate. Performance appraisals are one such process that have often gotten a bad rap. In traditional stack ranking style, they were unabashedly used to decide who would stay and who would be shown the door.
Today many HR departments are starting the process of rehabilitating performance management by getting rid of or reinventing the process to make it more focused on employee growth and development. Cementing the change they’re replacing reviews with employee driven feedback interactions, more frequent coaching conversations and even the opportunity to give upward feedback - a major departure from the so called ‘rank and yank’ system.
Each company has its own unique culture, whether it reflects what executives envisioned is another question. It’s not necessarily the job of HR to create their company’s culture but to take its values and mission and infuse them throughout all processes within the organization. A company’s core values are often described as its moral compass. As many recent cases show, this should not be taken lightly.
After fast growing tech company Zenefits was charged with taking short cuts on online broker license certifications they came out with a statement announcing that, “Zenefits now is focused on developing business practices that will ensure compliance with all regulatory requirements, and making certain that Zenefits operates with integrity as its No. 1 value.”
However, what must be remembered is that words and reality can be two different things. Your top leadership can profess a company’s values but you need a constant reinforcement of those values at every level of the organization to ensure they’ll really be followed. As the architect behind all people processes, putting HR in charge of strengthening and infusing values (with full support from top leadership) is the best way to ensure they’re fully integrated into your culture.
Translating People Data
Employee experience is not something that can be designed and put in place for life. Just like companies that aren’t constantly innovating their product, those which are not innovating their employee experience will lose out in the talent market. That’s why HR must create an always on engagement culture by frequently measuring and analyzing. People data can tell you when engagement levels are low but it can’t tell you what the root of the problem is. This is where HR must learn to identify the triggers through processes like employee journey mapping and then effectively communicate to executives the changes which need to be made through storytelling.
The great thing about the rise of HR tech is that it takes away more of the administrative tasks HR has had to deal with in the past and leaves professionals with more time to transform their organizations into great places to work. The challenge HR will face is adopting a new way of thinking about their profession and arming themselves with the tools they’ll need to bring their department and company forward in the future.