Human resources strategy and technology are inextricably intertwined. Let me expand on what I mean.
When new chief HR officers (CHROs) are contemplating the shift from a management to an executive position, one of the first questions they'll often ask is:
"How do I find time to be strategic when I am so overwhelmed by the day-to-day workload involved in administering an HR function?"
As you can imagine, if you happen to be the individual asking the question, the answer is not a simple one. But don't despair. There are some things you can do to make the shift from manager to executive, gradual, smoother and easier. I'd like to share these with you now in the form of three essential tips.
Three tips toward a more strategic HR role
1. Claim 5% of your time for the more strategic
Start by dropping5% of your time from something you currently do and reallocating it to an activity that has a more strategic impact. The latter will be more valuable to the organization, and will have a higher likelihood of being noticed because - by design - strategic initiatives are more important.
If you find you can't drop 5% of what you do - and I find that hard to believe because there are discretionary activities in all of our work lives - then work 5% overtime. This is only two more hours a week. Claiming 5% is a necessity for you to start your evolution toward being a strategic business partner.
2. Equip yourself with the right tools
Every professional must have a bag of tools and tricks to be successful.
Since strategy is about making change, what are some of the levers you can use to encourage behavior change? Many of these levers include the tools we already know and love but, for whatever reason, we might not think of employing to our strategic advantage. Some examples include policies, incentive programs, initiatives, special events, communications, storytelling, slogans, and employee involvement campaigns.
When used effectively, these tools can help shape the work environment, build the right culture, and drive the kind of performance and behavior that support the organization's mission, vision, strategy, and goals. For instance, a policy might demand compliance or promote teamwork.
A well-placed story about the founder can build a culture of innovation or reinforce a company's values. Wielding our tools strategically requires a strategic mindset. This subtle distinction cannot be overstated.
3. Leverage technology. Embrace automation
Experts argue that the typical HR department's time is spent on strategy, core HR functions, and administrative activities in a percentage distribution of 10-30-60. However, HR transformation is possible through the use of technology and automation for routine HR activities - allowing for a 20-60-20 distribution.
It's 2014, which begs the question, "Why would anyone accept paper applications, communicate with candidates through mail, handle paper job descriptions or performance appraisals, route personnel requests via emails, or manage their compensation budget on spreadsheets?
Indeed, there are numerous HR activities that can be streamlined, automated and improved using the latest technology. Please note the emphasis placed on the word improved.
Technology can automate goal management, streamline performance ratings, link ratings to compensation decisions, identify high performers, flag these employees for special training opportunities, and then place them into the appropriate talent pools or succession planning pipelines - all in the blink of an eye.
Are you using the latest and greatest HR technology? If not, you're likely one of the people who can't possibly find the time to be strategic.
Somewhere along the way, HR professionals were marked with the infamous reputation that they're good with people but not good with numbers or technology. Nonsense.
For those of us who are HR professionals, this outdated stereotype continues to haunt us today. This is unfortunate because, in reality, HR professionals are some of the most advanced consumers of technology.
Some of the applications we use include applicant tracking and recruitment systems, performance appraisal and multi-rater systems, learning and talent management and platforms, and compensation and succession planning modules.
And when we use this technology it frees us up to concentrate on the people aspect of our work, not the paperwork part of it.
Let the journey to HR strategist begin
In summary, to journey into a strategic foray, HR professionals must:
- equip themselves with the tools of the trade
- utilize technology to ease the administrative burden and improve service delivery
- make time for higher priority activities
Time, tools, and technology are three essential parts of a whole that mutually reinforce one another. Collectively, they are enablers that free the CHRO to concentrate on longer term organizational challenges that have a more profound impact than day-to-day activities.
So, without further delay, let the journey begin!
Your Turn: Do you agree or disagree with the suggestion to allot 5% of your time to strategic HR?