As with so many industries and job roles that focus their attention on managing people, human resources can be a tricky discipline to define. Its reach spans across everything from recruitment to internal disputes and employee satisfaction right through to finance and remuneration.
Given this wide array of specialties, it’s easy to understand why – in many organisations –HR has never quite fitted into a category of its own. Instead, a significant amount of crossover exists, with other departments fighting to claim control over what they see as their own “turf”. Nowhere is this more evident than in the increasingly complex world of employee experience.
Where once, the wellbeing of employees would have clearly fallen within the remit of HR, the departmental lines are increasingly blurred.
Now, a new wave of marketing professionals have set about redefining the role, claiming – in some cases accurately – that the way employees perceive an organisation is just as much a part of a company’s branding as the views and perceptions of end customers.
To these marketers, creating an atmosphere in which employees want to brag about their work environment and recommend their company to friends is very much a marketing stunt rather than a long-term HR initiative. In reality, both are equally true.
But while the HR community has been watching the marketing department, a new shift has been happening around the UK.
In addition to marketing, IT departments have also started to encroach upon the role of HR – specifically when it comes to managing employee experiences.
According to recently released research from business communications provider Fuze, 45% of IT leaders believe that optimising the employee experience should now fall under the control of the IT department rather than HR.
To these IT professionals, employee experience is as much a technology-led issue as it is a people-led issue, with many believing that improved communication, positive collaboration and flexible work environments can only be achieved once the technology is in place to make them a feasible, effective and profitable reality.
This shift in ownership isn’t some far off vision for the IT department, but instead an increasingly clear reality.
According to Fuze’s study, of 900 IT leaders worldwide, 44% already view managing the employee experience as a key part of their job role while 38% don’t currently have responsibility for this role but intend to actively champion it in the years to come.
And it’s not just IT departments that are convinced by the notion that improved technology encourages greater workplace satisfaction.
According to Fuze’s App Generation study, a quarter of UK workers claim that they would enjoy their jobs more if they could opt to work remotely. Unfortunately, 50% say that their employers don’t currently provide the adequate technology to work in this way.
While this may seem like a small consideration, for today’s workforce the ability to work remotely and flexibly has never been so high on the priorities list.
This fact is only set to become more true as the new “App Generation” – those teenagers who have grown up constantly connected - enters the workforce.
According to Fuze, as many as 73% of App Generation teenagers expect to use the very latest technology at work, while 49% claim that they have no intention of working a traditional 9-5 job.
This growing demand, combined with IT leaders’ ambition to take ownership of employee experiences could leave HR departments in a difficult situation, losing control of yet another vital aspect of the HR job description.
In reality however, this doesn’t have to be the case.
Just as marketing departments can work together with HR to build the best possible brand perception, HR departments must look to actively embrace the role of IT as an enabler for the employee experience.
Between cost reductions, system maintenance and championing new technologies, today’s IT departments are busier than they’ve ever been. As such, while IT leaders may be keen to take ownership of the employee experience, many believe that this demand is simply coming from a place of frustration rather than a desire to remove HR from the mix.
In the case of most IT departments, CIOs and IT leaders witness the issues and frustrations that their staff have on a daily basis (inability to work remotely, inability to collaborate, inability to work flexibly).
They also know exactly the right technologies that are required to address these frustrations and to make the employee experience better for everyone involved.
Unfortunately, many IT departments don’t have the same experience when it comes to managing employees beyond simply which technologies they should use.
Instead, what is needed is a combined HR and IT approach.
Rather than attempting to claim ownership or protect their turf, both of these functions need to stop working in silos and come together to argue their case to the board.
By monitoring and evaluating employee feedback, frustrations and satisfaction scores, HR departments can quickly identify the most pressing workplace and communication issues that today’s employees are struggling with.
Then, by working alongside HR, the IT department can recommend the most effective technology solutions to meet employee demands.
As working practices evolve and new generations of employees enter the workforce, we must expect to see significant changes in the expectations of today’s employees.
These expectations will affect all aspects of an organisation, from the way people communicate and give feedback, through to the technology they use, right down to the way in which a brand positions itself in the eyes of the public.
If businesses are to adapt to these changes however, they must first overcome their own internal divides. The days of departmental ownership are over. Today’s department heads must now learn that it is not just employees who can benefit from a greater degree of collaboration.