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The productivity problem: How HR can overcome its top five obstacles

(Image credit: Image Credit: Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock)

The HR team is undoubtedly among the most powerful forces in any successful organization. Not only do HR professionals drive efficient strategy and planning throughout the entire business, but also work to significantly improve employee engagement, job satisfaction, and staff retention. Ultimately, the HR team is all about increasing employee performance, with long-term organizational success as its driving force.

That being said, many organizations continue to fall short of creating the optimum HR experience by creating silos between tactical HR and strategic HR. This model does not accurately represent the day-to-day experiences of every HR leader, hence finding a balance is becoming increasingly important. This downfall, combined with the immense pressure placed on HR teams as a result of Covid-19, has shone light on the need for business leaders to review and improve the management of their employees.

Organizations looking to weather the storm must therefore consider the key obstacles preventing them from advancing their HR operations, including the time and talent allocated to the influx of transactional HR. For example, while tasks such as filing paperwork are necessary, the time required to complete them is disproportionate to the value they drive. This disparity, in turn, is affecting strategic HR activities – work that directly impacts people.

HR teams that have swiftly moved their services online and are ahead of the innovation curve have been able to adapt more quickly to an ever-evolving world. In fact, with the sharp increase in remote working and altered workplace environments, employees’ expectations are for increasingly digitalized HR service delivery (HRSD).

But in order to achieve this goal, HR leaders must first consider the top productivity killers impacting their team and invest more heavily in the right tools and technologies to eliminate these inefficiencies. The bottom-line here is that HR digitalization has proven to no longer be a ‘nice to have’, but a must have.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the five most common productivity killers impacting HR experiences and how organizations can alleviate these.

Paper documents

First and foremost, perhaps the most obvious HR productivity killer is the age-old paper document, with physical documents that pile up on desks only adding to administrative tasks such as scanning, copying, and filing. All HR functions—benefits, training, recruiting, employee relations, talent—generate some kind of employee document, and managing these can take up a lot of time.

The solution is simple—leverage a unified file management system that automatically generates the appropriate files needed by an employee, enables electronic signatures, and supports secure access and sharing. With an increased focus on business continuity as a result of the pandemic, digital employee files have become a must.

Repetitive employee requests

Another time constraint for frontline HR is routine employee requests. HR teams often face high volumes of diverse requests from all parts of the organization, pulling their focus away from strategic HR activities and impacting their overall workloads.

This issue has only been exacerbated by the complexities of Covid-19 and an increasing emphasis on workplace safety. For example, many employees are asking “what safety measures have been implemented to ensure I am safe at work?” or “what is the sick-leave policy?” Routine requests can therefore impact non-HR employees’ productivity levels as well as HR while waiting for an answer, when they should be focused on the core functions of their role.

To combat this issue going forward, HR teams must invest in employee knowledge portals complete with searchable answers so that staff find out information on their own. Enabling staff self-service can also free up HR teams to return to strategic tasks, with a substantial portal reducing HR requests from 40 – 70 percent. Put simply, time and efforts will be saved by giving employees the ability to self-serve.

Case management overload

Case management is how organizations manage employee requests and inquiries. While employee self-service undoubtedly helps to ease this process, more complex requests will still require quality HR attention.

These cases naturally consume more time, with the way they are managed on the backend determining how much time they consume. For example, an employee might have a specific request regarding payroll that will need to be managed by a payroll specialist. Organizations looking to enhance employee engagement and retention must therefore ensure they have an efficient HR case management system in place.

High-level systems will automate workflows so that employee requests are routed to the right person, while also ensuring the relevant representative has full view into the case history, access employee files, and the ability to respond to the employee appropriately.

Just like every other department, HR is trying to reduce messages in their inbox and a dedicated tool that tracks employee cases all in one place makes that goal much more attainable.

Messy and duplicative processes

Creating and managing processes is a regular part of business, but this does not mean that organizations need to have lots of them. The moments that matter during the employee lifecycle range from before they join the organization to the day they retire. All these touchpoints with HR (ex: onboarding, internal transfers, and promotions etc.) can often involve multiple stakeholders and systems, calling for HR teams to review and improve messy processes.

Automation of processes can streamline workflows and create a more accurate, and efficient experience for both HR and the employee. Another benefit of cleaning up processes with a shiny-new HRSD software solution is the non-reliance of IT—meaning HR teams can easily update processes in just a few clicks to react more quickly to an incident. If the management process of these moments are manual, this can create delays, errors, and duplicative papers.

How do you know if you need to transform your processes? An audit of existing workflows can quickly inform this decision by revealing unnecessary or duplicative business processes. For HR teams looking to optimize their performance, being agile and quickly updating existing processes without having to spend days reconfiguring their system or going through consulting systems will mean the real difference between sinking or swimming.

Data overload

Today, organizations of all sizes track their activity and increase efficiencies with data analytics. The HR team is no exception to this rule, with the power of data critical to HR strategy as it can help determine your organization’s current and future position.

But what good is data without insights? A team member can spend hours going down a data rabbit hole rather than quickly viewing the right data to inform an important decision—data is only a productivity killer when it’s not optimized appropriately.

Having a reporting and analytics tool within your HR system is crucial for HR teams to leverage data for KPI monitoring and to gain performance insights into their operations. For example, by looking at what employees read most and keeping track of recurring requests, HR can determine where they need to focus their efforts. Data ultimately leads to direct action.

To move from transactional to transformational, organizations must consider these five HR productivity killers carefully and invest in the modernization and digital transformation of HR operations to gain access to important insights needed to focus their efforts on what really matters – employees. With less time spent on administrative tasks, HR teams can create more time for meaningful employee interactions.

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Remi Malenfant, director of HR innovation and customer experience, UKG (opens in new tab)

Remi Malenfant, director of HR innovation and customer experience, UKG.