Be an Advisor, Not a Teller: Shifting HR to a More Strategic Role

December 14, 2017 By Rich Bogoslaw

Many of my clients tell me they want their HR organization to be more strategic, but they don’t know how to make it happen. One of the first questions I ask is whether they have self-service capabilities so that employees and managers can perform simple HR-related activities on their own (e.g., time off requests, onboarding tasks, headcount reporting, etc.).

The most common response I hear? “Oh, we’re not ready for that yet.”  Well, guess what? Your workers are not only ready for it, they expect it. That’s what they’ve become accustomed to in their daily lives.

And the simple truth is, these are the the kinds of routine tasks that are weighing HR down and preventing them from focusing on a more strategic role.  

A good analogy is personal banking. When was the last time you went to a bank to cash a check? You know … drive to the bank, wait for it to open, stand in line, fill out a deposit slip, and hand your check to the teller. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I did that, and most millennials I know have never even set foot inside a bank. Instead, we take out our smartphones, snap a pic of the check, and hit deposit. Transaction complete in less than a minute. Best of all, it happens at the time and place most convenient for you.

What happens if you want to do something more strategic like rebalance a portfolio to save for retirement? In that case, you will likely consult with a financial advisor who has the deep experience to help you make smart decisions.

HR staff too often find themselves in the role of the teller — processing routine transactions that people can and prefer to do themselves.

But when you are planning on expanding your business into a new market that will require a different mix of skills and resources —  that’s something a strategic HR advisor can help you with.  

How do we make the shift from teller to advisor?  

Experience has been a buzzword in 2017. Employee experience, customer experience, user experience. But what exactly qualifies as an experience? At its core, an experience is what someone is doing, thinking, and feeling during a particular event.  

At Appirio, we look at customer and worker experiences as a Virtuous Cycle — happy workers lead to happy customers, which leads to engaged, productive, and agile workers and aware, satisfied customers who amplify your brand.  

Looking at worker journeys through the lense of key personas will identify opportunities to enhance their experience and develop corrective actions from a people (skills & behaviors), process (simplification), and technology (consumer-grade enablement) standpoint.

Think about front-line managers and the HR Business Partners (HRBPs) who support them. As technology advances in people’s personal lives, the tools they use at work need to follow suit. Enabling consumer-grade HR technology that allows employees and managers to conduct simple “talent transactions” anytime, anywhere, and from any device, will increase their satisfaction.

In turn, they would be more aware of their own team’s information, and able to flag or correct missing or inaccurate data. And even better, they will understand if there’s a need to engage with HR on the more strategic questions. (It seems like I’m lacking in XYZ skill; do we need another ABC role to support our growth?)

For HRBPs, having accurate employee data and modern-day technology allows for more reliable analysis and insights into the organizations they support. And if they’re engaged as a true business partner who understands the organization’s goals, they will be better positioned to recommend the right strategies and actions.

In the New Year, I encourage you to take a step back and think about the experiences you are creating for your workers. The more closely their Worker Experience aligns with the technology they are accustomed to in their daily lives, the more natural it will feel and the more productive they will be. This will free HR up to focus on the strategic aspects of human resources, so they can stop telling and start advising.  

Learn more about transforming your worker and customer experiences in our Virtuous Cycle ebook.

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