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It seems unfortunate that human resources, one of the most vital functions of an organization, frequently suffers from a bad reputation. Employees usually know little about what their HR contacts do beyond payroll and contracts, while C-Suite execs tend to leave them on the sidelines of visionary decision-making.
But if there's truth behind the common call to “grow your people, grow your business”, shouldn’t HR be the most important department in a company? It's time to stop viewing HR reps as purely administrative and give them a seat at the board by adopting the principle of “people enablement.” At its essence, people enablement is a more holistic approach towards individual development, and it encompasses the technology, processes, and content empowering employees and teams to develop and improve faster. Through this emerging trend, companies can start to empower their workers to acquire valuable experiences, explore new roles and continually reinvent themselves, and here's a brief guide to help get you started.
Change C-Suite Perceptions of HR
While it’s true that in the past HR may have been primarily administrative, these days the world of work is facing so many changes that it’s best placed to help companies navigate them, ensuring they can retain and attract talent in a world where a global human talent shortage of more than 85 million people is predicted by 2030. In this environment, employees will need to have the ability to regularly update their skills, and in order for HR to successfully adopt this trend, changes need to start at the top. To start with, CEOs themselves need to believe in a people-first approach. There are companies that have started embracing this (such as Vayner Media or Atlassian), and more will follow as they observe the positive benefits, including a more engaged workforce and higher productivity. At that point, HR should be empowered to make the decisions they need to best support the workforce. This could be anything from selecting technologies that support process or creating new processes to developing training schemes for managers and new recruitment strategies.
Change Employees' Perceptions of HR
As HR becomes empowered and adopts a more strategic function within the organization, this should have a trickle down effect, creating a change of perception among all employees, who will start to realize they can rely on HR as a partner to support them in their career development. As was demonstrated by Google’s influential Project Oxygen, first-time managers newly responsible for multiple team members are often unsure of how to support them, but when HR is able to focus on developing talent and creating an environment in which people can thrive, everyone wins. Employees will be more engaged and more likely to stay longer with a company, productivity will increase and growth will follow naturally as people will have the intrinsic motivation to bring their best selves to work.
View HR as a Strategic Partner
The best synergies can be found when HR is able to focus on putting people first, all while having a strong understanding of the business's needs. That’s why it’s vital for HR to be included in the boardroom so they can gain knowledge of a company’s needs, shifting priorities and financial obligations. In turn, HR reps will have to become comfortable with understanding business priorities and strategic input.
For example, in the past few years, we’ve seen an increase in the use of people analytics, i.e. insights HR are able to gain using technology that supports engagement surveys, performance management and more. This is a great way to benchmark, measure and demonstrate change across the organization. Not to mention, they help confirm statements about a company’s overall health. When purchasing HR tech, it’s important to consider what’s in it for employees and not just HR first. This would not only defeat the purpose of HR being viewed as a strategic partner but also dramatically lowes the adoption rate of new technology. HR should think of technology as a way to support their business's function, and of improving the employee experience.
Envision Shaping the Future of Work
As Globalization 4.0 approaches, it’s clear we all need to rethink our approach to work and career. Together, HR and the C-Suite can shape the future of their companies, better preparing themselves for this new reality, all while supporting employees readying to be confronted by the changes. Rather than remaining stuck in a model we inherited from the industrial revolution, we need to change how we think about employment, career trajectories, talent retention and much more. This starts by enabling HR to start tackling people-related issues in a completely different manner than they have done until now, using approaches like people enablement. It also means freeing up their time from administrative tasks so they are able to think more strategically, while other functions can specialize in compensation and benefits. The division of responsibilities has to be clear. If companies start to think more with a people-first, as opposed to bottom-line-first, mindset, this will increase their agility and ability to change as quickly as the job market, or close enough.