How innovation is shaping the HR team of the future

With a new generation of talent currently remoulding expectations of the ideal workplace, things are rapidly changing in the HR department.

Set to make up 75 per cent of the workforce by 2025, “Generation Y” and “Millennials” display a different approach to working life. Having grown up in the dawn of a tech era, they are extremely tech-aware and apply working practices that demand a revamped office environment and tools at their disposal. But the cultural shift doesn’t stop with a few pieces of innovative equipment and new-joiner incentives. The new generation has a different outlook on their careers, making loyalty diminish in favour of the best offer on the table.

So how can the HR department do its part to ensure employees are engaged at all stages of the employee journey, from recruitment through to retention? After all, your employees are your greatest asset for acquiring business. If they aren’t happy, or are sat on a revolving churn mill, how can the business reach its wider objectives?

The new kids on the block

As a HR professional the first priority is to understand how the changing workforce will impact existing strategies, with the two main considerations encompassing:

A new way of working:

Millennials know what they want, and if an employer isn’t providing this they will certainly find a company that is. More tech-savvy than ever both in their personal and professional lives, this has a knock-on effect on the way they will conduct business. As such, the current trend is towards a much more collaborative and social way of working, led by the consumerisation of office IT. As well as top spec consumer devices, think tools such as Salesforce Chatter, Google Docs and Hangouts that open up a much more efficient way of communicating by removing lengthy admin tasks and unnecessary email chains. Having the infrastructure in place that allows this new approach is paramount if you don’t want to be seen as stuck in the dark ages.

Also consider whether the firm offers and promotes a good work / life balance, actively encouraging flexible working practices to do great work, but in a way that fits their lifestyle. This level of trust and flexibility will drive productivity, by enabling staff to work whenever and wherever there is a job to be done.

Avoiding the talent gap:

Businesses must keep evolving if they are to fully cater for a new generation of talent, fully understanding the principle main drivers of the modern workforce. With HR taking the reins of identifying such trends that will beat the competition, they can ensure that best candidates are hooked from the talent pool, and continue to be satisfied within their day jobs.

Turning worker experience into customer experience

As unhappy workers usually result in unhappy customers, the environment that a business provides will have a direct correlation with the overall success of an organisation. Ensuring exceptional worker experience that will empower employees to create an exceptional customer experience is key. In turn this continues to turn the wheels of a virtuous cycle.

Netflix is a great example of this, combining great customer service with growth simply by remaining focused on the worker experience. The company gives its employees a great amount of freedom to innovate without being held back by processes. It also looks to provide amazing incentives with the understanding that employees are expected to work hard and provide a great service to customers.

Introducing a virtuous cycle approach will help HR improve employee loyalty and productivity. In turn this can lead to company growth, customer loyalty and satisfaction and vice versa. Using this as a demonstrator of the return on investment is yet another way for HR Directors to demonstrate credibility and influence at board level.

Upskilling HR

Innovative technologies have now moved HR away from simply holding systems of records for the company to being a centre of intelligence, whereby data can be evaluated to determine improved methods of interaction in the workforce. Take for example the difference that systems like Workday can deliver to the HR team. This enriches employee data and allows managers to manage people without relying on HR for the basic statistics.

Such a shift is opening the doors for HR teams to think much more strategically, and develop a new skillset, whereby they can use their time to do a lot more. For example, HR can look at the skills of employees and predict where the business may have a gap in talent and take the steps to rectify this. A HR Director that can take this this intelligence and provide a tactical and strategic recommendations, has the ability to be a trusted advisor to the whole business.

Businesses are moving into a more predictive world and HR Directors that can talk at board level about upcoming challenges and understand what technology to use to drive commercial opportunities and business decisions will have much more credibility. They will better understand how the organisation can better serve its customers through their employees.

Justin Anderson, VP Sales, CRM and HCM at Appirio