With over 15,000 people in attendance and an impossibly wide selection of sessions, suffice to say a lot happened at SHRM. HR Dive was there – and we tried to gather up as much information as we could.
One resounding theme, as seen in part 1 of this piece Wednesday, focused on how HR can become more strategic. Naturally, there was much to be said. Here are what three experts had to say at their sessions on what HR leaders can do to elevate programs, prove ROI and build on successes.
Elevating HR: The keys to helping HR professionals create greater business value
Rusty Lindquist, VP of HCM strategy at BambooHR
"We're not creating the value companies need from us," Lindquist said in his presentation at SHRM. In hard economic times, HR deals with "small problems" — holding onto talent that has little incentive to leave anyway. When the business is booming, HR adopts the larger problems that challenge the enterprise, including ROI, retention and engagement.
"Organizational power goes to the group that deals with the biggest problems," Linquist noted, quoting influential economist Alfred Marshall. But that’s not yet happening for HR. So what can HR do about it?
- HR needs to take a moment to understand what exactly it is they do for the organization — and believe in its true worth to the company. Belief, not behavior, often undermines overall attitude, Lindquist noted.
- Eliminate the unnecessary. Many businesses, but particularly the HR departments, "fall victim to the inertia of the past" — meaning departments will continue a practice even if it doesn't add value simply because that is how it's always been done. Such inertia can make itself known through too many services. Lindquist advises taking stock of what matters most and learning what to say no to. Additionally, HR needs to organize the data it receives into something accessible and reportable. Essentially: Stop with the spreadsheets.
- Use the right technology to automate tasks. HR tech has since crossed "the chasm of want," Lindquist said, meaning the tech is both desired and easy to use. "Simplicity beats functionality," he added. The HR tool with the most bells and whistles may be so overwhelming that users can't optimize it. Know what you need and buy accordingly.
Translating HR to net profit: How to show the real bottom-line impact of HR
David Lewis, President and CEO of Operations Inc.
Proving ROI on HR initiatives is a constant battle for HR leaders. According to Lewis, half the battle is won when HR shows the work.
"There's not nearly enough effort put in by HR to explain the nature of HR's work at the end of the year," he said. HR can begin this process by listing out the baseline things it does, and quantifying them by time, transaction, and frequency, for example.
He also had more advice for HR on justifying certain programs to the C-suite.
Justifying tech spend
- Show time to process data via current methods and compare to what HR has to do right now with current processes. Often, HR leaders can show that by adopting new tools, the company can get rid of redundant positions and save money in the long run.
- New technologies often lead to large reductions in error, particularly human error.
- Many new technologies also have an employee self-service element, which leads to less reliance on HR to respond to small, day-to-day inquiries — meaning HR has more time to be productive on the larger things.
- When trying to fill a new position, talk to direct managers. Generally, HR should be partnering with all parts of an organization in order to most effectively support the business, Lewis said. Ask managers about lost productivity and how being down a person impacts the force. Who is currently handling the work?
- Keep in mind and quantify the learning curve for new employees. For many positions, it can be as long as 6-18 months before the new employee is operating at the standard level. Keep this in mind when seeking new talent.
- These programs require a bit of creativity to show why the spend matters, though most experts agree that learning and development programs are key to an organization today. In a job market that demands employers retain employees, learning programs have been shown to increase retention by increasing upward mobility of employees, Lewis said. More promotions for workers due to improved skill means more promising employees stick around.
- HR may also need to reduce the spans of times that it measures from year or even years to months thanks to the nature of a multigenerational workforce, Lewis added. Or, in other words: Blame millennials.
HR’s role in influencing the strategy
Michael Wilkinson, Founder of Leadership Strategies
In his talk, Wilkinson addressed the "barriers to success" that HR faced during the day-to-day and what factors were necessary to overcome these issues. He addressed three "critical success factors:" Perception of quality, perception of value and using verbs when considering goals.
"You have to have an accurate picture of today's circumstances for any strategy to work," Wilkinson added. An organization's plan must link throughout the organization, and answer four key questions:
- Where are we today?
- Where do we want to be?
- What do we do to get there?
- How do we track our progress?
At the end of the day, the vision for the future must be shared by HR and all other parts of the organization. Outlining your goals and communicating the "critical success factors" will help HR prove its worth to the company, he said.