Transforming HR refocuses on the importance of building ongoing employee engagement and recognition.

Transforming HR to stay relevant centers now on the power of day-in, day-out engagement and appreciation. Photo via US Army Garrison Red Cloud – Casey, Flickr


Transforming HR to stay relevant now centers on the power of day-in, day-out engagement and appreciation.
It’s the latest trend in HR and it stems back to the massive restructuring of corporate HR departments that began in the mid-1990s, as HR leaders grew from department specialists to business strategists.
“The old-style HR that dealt with strikes, bonuses and gripes was rarely suited to this task,” according to The Economist.
Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen how companies have met the challenge of transforming HR from the inside. Business leaders finally started recognizing the value of a company’s human assets and employee motivation to overall business strategy and success. We see the results of this transformation everywhere, from improved workplace wellness programs to employee engagement that is fully integrated into company culture.
Yet there’s still so far to go.
The “great expectations” of transforming HR “were largely frustrated,” according to The Economist. “After a decade, fewer than 5 percent of executives said they thought that their organization’s management of people was not in need of improvement.”
At SHRM 2016 in June, speaker Ryan Estis said the world of HR is now at a pivotal moment in its evolution and shared strategies for transforming HR in a “Future of Work” session.
Earlier this year, Bersin by Deloitte discussed transforming HR in its research report, “WhatWorks Awards 2016: Lessons from the Best.”
Read on to find out why experts are calling for a renewed commitment to transforming HR and why their recommendations center on culture and employee engagement.

Transforming HR: What’s Next

Technology, analytics and digitization are often behind the latest trends transforming HR, but these are simply tools to an end.
“Digitization has given HR departments the tools to replace antiquated processes and systems with technology-enabled solutions that should completely transform the employee experience,” according to the Bersin by Deloitte research report.
One of the biggest impacts is on the annual employee survey. “The reports generated by these surveys are usually a one-time event, leaving HR leaders and business managers in the dark about their employees for the rest of the year,” according to the report.
“Digitally transformed HR departments” are reaping the benefits of being able to seek feedback (and award praise) as often as needed, not just once a year:

  • real-time feedback and data
  • mobile applications
  • human-centered, experience-driven design

Bersin by Deloitte features WhatWorks 2016 finalist Pivotal Software for its efforts in transforming HR with analytics:

Using a customized 12-question pulse survey, the team tests a representative population of the global workforce four times per year. The results, which measure employee sentiment and satisfaction, then shape the HR team’s priorities for the following three to six months. … Freed from time-consuming annual reviews, employees and managers can focus on how to improve performance on an ongoing basis. Employees also report that they are more receptive to feedback since they receive it more often.

“Organizational agility” is a phrase that stands out from Bersin by Deloitte’s research into this new wave of HR tech. At the core of Pivotal Software’s success, for example, is a commitment to “agile development” via 12 guiding principles, including transparency, trust, continuous improvement, collaboration, kindness and empathy — all made easier and faster through real-time feedback, appreciation and engagement.
This kind of agility and flexibility was echoed in workplace expert Ryan Estis’ speech at SHRM 2016. An HRE Daily blog post sums up the three core principles of Estis’ message — namely, that HR professionals need to:

  1. Constantly evaluate and reinvent.
  2. Have the courage to influence and challenge leadership.
  3. Be a “culture champion” and treat culture as a “catalyst for change”

Adobe is the example Estis gives of an HR department that took action to reinvent itself, influence business and implement change via culture.

Estis specifically cited Adobe’s decision a few years back to eliminate its performance-appraisal system as an excellent example of how HR was able step out of its comfort zone to fix a process that everyone agreed was broken. “Leaders hated it and employees hated it,” he said. “So they got rid of it and replaced it with what they call Check-Ins, where employees have conversations with their managers.”

What’s so exciting about this latest transformation in HR is its accessibility. More frequent employee-employer engagement is feasible whether you’re a large company with thousands of employees and access to advanced software, or a small business with a dozen employees.
The outcome is the same: more reliable information on how to run your company and engage employees — and more opportunities to build trust and thank employees for specific examples of excellent performance.
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