5 best practices to modernise your HR department

A group of employees are strategically planning how to modernise HR activities

Each new year heralds a fresh start for every business and provides an opportune moment for HR leaders to take stock of the rapidly changing work environment.

From the rise of the Millennial and Generation Z workforce to the increasing proliferation of freelancers and ‘gig’ workers, a number of employment trends have transformed the workplace in recent years.

Add technology developments into the mix, and it seems the goalposts are moving on a near daily basis – all of which makes it essential for HR departments to adapt, modernise HR and move with the times.

Traditional HR models are fast becoming outdated. Traditionally seen as an admin-centric function with limited input into business strategy and growth, today expectations on HR are much greater. Now leadership is looking to HR to lead the delivery of an engaging employee experience that helps to attract and retain top talent.

As we see it, there are broadly five areas HR leaders can look at to mould and modernise HR in order for the function to meet these changing demands.

1 Capitalising on the gig economy

The ‘gig economy’ has been on the rise for years, and the trend towards short-term, zero-hours working shows no sign of relenting.

The fact is that most organisations will increasingly rely on sources of talent beyond their full-time employees – from contingent workers to consultants, freelancers, contractors and so on. It is expected that these workers will account for nearly half of the average company’s workforce in the next few years.

The benefits of a temporary workforce are clear – fewer obligations in terms of holiday and sick pay, the ability to scale up or down rapidly and resource key projects quickly. However, making the most of the gig economy trend means adapting your HR department to meet the needs of this flexible workforce.

You’ll need to be right on the top of the rules and regulations surrounding temporary workers. Some gig economy workers (including couriers) are classified differently to others and are entitled to certain benefits in spite of their zero-hours status. Recent changes to IR35 will also have big implications, with the onus now on the employer to classify contract workers correctly for tax purposes.

Managing this type of workforce arguably moves HR towards a more procurement-style operation, which is highly efficient and able to ‘buy-in’ talent, much like the organisation already procures other goods and services. This means adapting HR processes to the way temporary workers are requisitioned, sourced, onboard, integrated and remunerated.

For many HR teams, this will be a significant step change from managing traditional employees. Undoubtedly, it will require the right systems to ensure you can cope with what will need to be a much more agile HR operation.

HR department employing a gig economy worker to keep up to date with modernise HR departments.2 Reducing admin through automation

The administrative burden of HR is well documented – but that’s not to say it should be an accepted norm.

If your department is still heavily reliant on manual, paper-based processes, it’s time to turn to technology, building in automation and self-service to relieve the pressure on your team.

For instance, introducing a simple online knowledge base would be a good starting point, to help employees find their own answers to your most frequently asked questions. Automating time-off requests and enabling employees to update their own personal details would further reduce your admin time.

The concept of automation is certainly not new, yet so many HR departments have only scratched the surface in terms what can be automated. Automation isn’t here to replace HR – it simply frees you up to play a more proactive role in the business and meet the rising expectations, highlighted earlier in this post.

If you want examples of the most common HR processes that are ripe for automation, read this post ‘Administrative HR tasks small businesses should start automating’.

3 Leveraging employee data

Like it or loathe it, we’re living in the age of Big Data – and the most modern, progressive HR departments out there are using that to their significant advantage.

There will always be a place for intuition, empathy and perceptiveness in HR, but increasingly, businesses are looking to back up their people decisions with cold, hard facts.

That means implementing people analytical solutions, capable of leveraging individual and collective employee data to reveal detailed insights on the behavioural trends of the workforce.

For example, today’s predictive analytics make it possible to calculate employee flight risk – using machine-learning technology to analyse and identify trends in the employee record that could point to an early departure. This early warning could be the difference between retaining your star performers or losing them.

When it comes to analytics, you should never run before you can walk. Start in a realistic place, likely around reporting and KPIs, and then build step-by-step. Our comprehensive guide, ‘How to get started with HR analytics’ is a useful resource that shows you how to develop your reporting and analytics capability incrementally over time.

4 Embracing flexible working

Thanks to cloud-based collaboration tools, video conferencing facilities and increasingly sophisticated mobile devices, it’s never been easier to work away from the office – so don’t expect the clamour for flexible working to die down any time soon.

The trend for flexible working (whereby employees work at least part of their week from home), looks only set to increase in 2019 – to modernise HR teams, you should be at the forefront of embracing this change.

There’s still some resistance from traditional business leaders, many of whom hold archaic views on the concept of working from home and associate the practice with a lack of productivity. Here is where HR should start – to first convince the flexible working ‘haters’ that it really can have a major positive impact. But more importantly, you need to make leadership more aware of the negative impact of inflexible working, such as non-productive stress and a disengaged workforce.

With support for flexible working, HR teams can implement strategies and tactics to maximise it fully – you can see some examples in our previous post, ‘How flexible working can improve productivity in your organisation.’

HR employee working from home to modernise HR5 Focusing on the employee experience

Encouraging and embracing flexible working is just one way in which a business can help its employees feel valued and trusted – and the best-performing HR departments recognise the importance of delivering those positive emotions.

A content, motivated and engaged workforce can have a huge impact on your bottom line, so as you seek to modernise HR services, you should be looking at the small tweaks you can make to help put smiles on faces.

Slick and smooth onboarding procedures can help here. So too can performance reviews that actually take place, and swift, painless holiday requests that don’t take weeks to approve.

Remember, now more than ever, you’re facing fierce competition for top talent – and review sites like GlassDoor are making the employee experience a key factor in promoting your organisation to potential applicants.

It’s no longer just about how well you pay – it’s about how supported, respected and engaged your members of staff feel.

If you want some inspiration to help you develop an employee engagement strategy, why not check out our guest webinar with Nick Court, who presented ‘How to design the ideal employee experience’.

Natural HR

About Natural HR

Natural HR is a cloud-based HR software company for growing businesses with 100+ employees. Since launching in 2010, we’ve been building a comprehensive suite of HR functionality that equips the small to medium-sized enterprise with everything needed to build an effective and efficient HR operation.

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