Working in human resources is not for the faint of heart. We’re nearly a month into 2024, and the breakneck pace of enterprise-wide business transformation has not slowed, yet the day-to-day support of the organization continues. With a balance of strategic partnership and tactical execution, business leaders rely heavily on their senior HR leaders to analyze, plan and guide them through massive organizational change.
Those HR leaders, in turn, rely on their teams to successfully execute upon the people, policy and systems requirements supporting the broader business design. In our daily work with CPOs and CHROs, we can tell you that the holidays certainly feel like a distant memory.
The world of work is an increasingly complex tapestry, with HR’s role rapidly evolving through broader responsibilities, agile ways of working, globalization and significant resource constraints. Ongoing layoffs and hiring freezes have impacted workers in many industries, including HR teams, leading to the daunting challenge of accomplishing even more with less. It’s an old story: limited budgets and deprioritized investments have hampered transformation progress, yet somehow, HR manages to dig in and get things done.
4 transformation strategies for today’s landscape
Despite these challenges, my conversations with HR leaders confirm that they remain passionate about the work ahead; they simply need guidance on the best way to move forward with limited resources. As you continue to find ways to meet the needs of the business, here is some practical advice you can work toward immediately:
Leverage technology wisely through process optimization
We continue to see organizations focus more on optimizing the technology they have rather than continuing to pour money into bolt-on, short-term solutions. The best way to do this is through process optimization, as technology should only enable your processes, not dictate them. After you’ve designed your ideal future state, if you have technology budget to spend, use it to invest in user-friendly HR software that streamlines processes such as recruitment, onboarding and performance management.
With continued advancements in artificial intelligence and robotic process automation, look for ways to implement automation for routine tasks, allowing your teams to focus on strategic initiatives. And embrace AI for analytics and predictive insights, enabling better decision-making and visibility into your data.
Collaborate with providers to maximize your investments
One area of untapped potential is your provider relationship. From a financial perspective, if it has been a while since you have reviewed your contract, consider this a reminder to take a closer look at what it includes. We have helped HR leaders discover additional credits due to fees at risk from service level agreements, as well as helped renegotiate contract terms based on changes in employee population.
From a service perspective, partner with your provider to proactively identify existing capabilities; for example, there may be features and functionality you have not yet implemented that increase your team’s efficiency. It is not uncommon for HR teams to fall behind in accepting system releases, resulting in missed opportunities to improve HR’s level of performance. Work with your providers to leverage every capability within the system. Most providers would much rather you ask them for help than risk losing your business to a competitor.
Outsource non-core functions
This recommendation can be controversial, but we see it as an opportunity for HR to maintain its role as a strategic partner by investing budget in places where it can help move the business forward. That often means outsourcing necessary administrative activities to providers that specialize in the function and keep an eye on trends while monitoring all legislative changes needed to remain compliant. Functions like benefits administration, leave management, workers compensation, COBRA and potentially payroll administration are often good candidates for partnering with a third-party provider.
Maximize cross-functional collaboration
At some point in our business history, territoriality and building silos became the best way to ensure each department hoarded information and resources, much to the detriment of the business at large. The most effective organizations know that while it’s important to let experts handle the areas for which they are best equipped, there is greater speed, efficiency and effectiveness where departments work together on organizational challenges rather than try to be the hero.
As HR leaders, you are often in the best position to facilitate this collaboration as you work with leadership across the organization. Rather than fighting for budget dollars and keeping plans secret, reach out to other departments to find ways to share resources and expertise. IT and finance are natural partners for HR—IT to help optimize technology and implement desired business processes, and finance to streamline workforce planning and talent management.
It doesn’t stop there. Leverage operations’ frontline knowledge to help drive talent decisions. Enable leaders to curate lessons learned and share across the organization.
This doesn’t mean you allow a free-for-all mentality within the business. You will still need to work with each group to define roles and responsibilities. But the goal is to allow responsibilities to live in teams where it makes the most sense rather than where it has always been.
In the dynamic landscape of 2024 and beyond, HR leaders are challenged to embrace change and find innovative ways to accomplish more with fewer resources. By approaching work with a new mindset and an eye toward transformation through optimization and collaboration, HR can navigate these challenges and contribute significantly to organizational success.