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Is this the best time to work in HR?

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21st Mar 2017
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“When I grow up I want to work with people”, said the young and excited graduate…

Has there ever been a better time to work in HR & talent? We have the lowest unemployment levels in generations, the rise of the gig economy, and a transient and less loyal workforce.

If there was ever a need for somebody who can find, keep, nurture, and manage efficiently the precious (and precious) talent of today, then it must be now.

HR & talent/people management should be the saviours of modern business. If people are our most important asset (as so many CEOs proclaim), then surely HR is our most important discipline!

But do we sit at the top table? Do we have a voice? Do we have the strength of character to reshape and build business and, most importantly, do we have the time and technology that enables us to do the job we came here to do?

It’s here, with tech, that our greatest opportunity lies. Our ability to sit and contribute effectively at the top table is singularly defined by our ability to adopt and navigate new technology.

Is this about milennials again?

There’s a lot of talk about the millennial workforce, and their wants, in terms of a sense of contribution, positive company culture and work-life balance.

However, there is an argument that the entire workforce is changing in terms of their expectations from jobs and workplaces. It’s not just millennials that want to be happy and fulfilled at work - it’s the rest of us too.

HR is the only discipline that has a real insight into this change and has the skills required to make our companies the kinds of places that people not only want to join, but also want to stay.

This is closely linked to the current emphasis on employer branding, but goes further than what some see as a PR exercise. Creating a positive employer brand which speaks to a desire for purpose and culture, as well as financial security, comes from the real experiences of our employees - not our perception of what we’d like them to be.

The HR managers that we speak to have told us that the improved experience that employees are looking for is not satisfied by free lunches on Fridays and a ping-pong table. They’re being asked for better line management, increased opportunities for personal and career progression and a more engaged culture.

These things are not new, but the commitment of employees to accessing them is.

In all of these areas, technology can be an important enabler. Helping us to better understand what’s needed, quantify the impact, bond people with their organisation and personalise their needs from L&D to benefits.

Current advantages

New HR technology gives us three fundamental benefits: freedom, insight and engagement.

Freedom

Technology is freeing us up from the burden of administration and allowing us to be more in control. Done properly, the technology you use should be the single source of all data. Easy data in and easy data out means that our time isn’t tied up in completing spreadsheets, and we have information available when we need it.

So, we now have the space we need to work on finding, nurturing and managing the talent that makes our businesses successful - but what does that mean for your company?

Let’s say you have a benefits budget and you know that your current one-size benefits offering is suiting neither your 20-something or 50-something employees very well.

Given the time and supporting data, you could squeeze the budget that you have to provide different benefits to your employees as they move through progressive life-stages and their attendant priorities.

But few HRs have previously had the time or supporting data to set that up and monitor its effectiveness - but now we can.

Insight

The world is full of data, the problem is most of the time it is unconnected, old, or simply lost! True insight is the ability to answer the right questions quickly, with real and current information and make smart decisions with it.

It’s being able to go from information to intelligence, so that you have a better understanding of what’s happening with the people in your company, and can make decisions more effectively. It’s not having to say ‘I’ll get back to you on that’ or ‘I don’t know’ as often.

As we become increasingly data-dependent for the decision-making around both people strategy and every-day changes, having insight is ever-more relevant.

This is especially true when the decisions to be made are not only HR decisions, but wider business management decisions - like budget amounts, retention programmes, and hiring policies.

Engagement

We can only work effectively if everybody in the business is also engaged with the technology and tools that we use. If our employees are, then we’ve got back 20% of our time.

There’s a reason that ‘self-service’ is one of the key demands of HR technology. If your staff are able to enter their own information, and access things like holiday bookings themselves, then it’s done quicker and with greater understanding on their part.

Let’s not forget that our employees are also much more familiar with complex technology.

Whatever their role at work, they probably have a smartphone, laptop, and online shopping accounts.

This makes them able to use self-service HR systems, and take more control over things like booking time off, reporting in sick, or updating their personal data - thereby reducing friction and taking some of the weight off you.

Engagement isn’t just about being able to use the available tools though, it’s also about engaging with your reward, your goals, your performance and even the people around you - and technology helps there too.

It’s much easier to get to know your staff’s personal interests, likes, dislikes, allergies, or personal objectives when you can regularly check in with them and easily store and sort the information that they give you.

What does all this mean?

The opportunity and the technology coming together at this moment mean that HR professionals are more empowered than ever to set and fulfill their ‘HR dreams:' those key things that we all want to achieve in our careers.

What are your HR dreams? See if they compare to thousands of professionals just like you, and learn how you can make your dreams become a reality in our brand new guide. Download here

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