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We live in an era in which the role of human resources is often challenged: media reports routinely fawn over the ability of artificial intelligence to replicate many “traditional” HR tasks, the move to remote work (and the switch back) has many HR teams struggling to find their place to support shifting workplace cultures, limited people budgets have required increasingly difficult choices and the weakened economy have left many HR teams with skeleton crews, many of which report they are stressed out – and burned out.
Against this backdrop, now is an excellent time to take stock of the future of human resources. In this age of turbulence and transformation, how and where can HR teams focus on making the most significant impact on their organization?
1. Build Employee Commitment – From Day One
HR is traditionally the first point of contact for newly hired employees, but the experience can often be underwhelming. The tasks associated with onboarding are often mundane and standardized.
In the last few years, many companies have focused on maximizing engagement and excitement by sending or providing employees with company merchandise, notes from their CEOs, or even decorations for their home office. These steps help make an employee feel welcome but don’t drive real commitment.
Outside of the C suite, HR is the department best positioned to help new employees understand why their company exists and how it contributes to society while building commitment around the kind of corporate culture and initiatives the organization is driving. It takes more than words on a screen to communicate whether employees have bought into a company’s broader purpose.
Focus on ways to help every employee understand their role in bringing the company’s purpose to life, showing employees why the work they do will matter every day in the lives of others, ask them to think about how they can help further the mission of your organization and to find ways to improve in that goal constantly. You will jump-start commitment and maximize effort from day one.
Related: Watch Out for These 5 Artificial Intelligence Problems in HR
2. Relentlessly drive focus to drive results
In a constantly shifting world, priorities seem to change quickly. Most employees report they are overwhelmed and don’t have the basic time to think — or work — on their given tasks. HR is in a prime position to help organizations drive focus.
- Job Clarity: ensure every employee clearly understands their role and what is expected of them. Go beyond job descriptions and onboard talent by providing a more robust understanding of their role and how it fits into the broader picture of their respective departments and the company.
- Goal setting: setting clear, stretch goals that are difficult but achievable can disproportionately drive long-term performance. Set organizational goals using simple communication tools like the “one-page strategy” concept articulated by One Page Solutions. Then, cascade these goals to every employee. Calibrate goals to ensure you don’t have unintended conflicts, train managers on prioritizing and focus your people on what matters most.
- A culture of feedback: the best, high-achieving cultures are comfortable giving regular feedback up, down and across the organization to help everyone improve. Train employees on the art and science of feedback: how to make observations first, then assessments, describe impacts and provide ideas to make improvements.
3. Pair people with technology and champion the possibilities
Generative AI will absolutely transform how work gets done. Embrace it for the benefit of your team, their workload and all employees who will appreciate the responsiveness. Imagine an AI script that walks an employee through a series of choices to pick the most appropriate medical, dental and vision plans during Open Enrollment. Not only does this save time, but it could also be customized based on their specific situation, life events for them or their family, and more. Consider standardized assessments, training tasks and even videos as potential areas to explore with AI.
Related: The Benefits and Drawbacks of AI Integration in HR Departments
4. Create global talent plans
Work-from-home and remote jobs are likely here to stay, despite the current shift and ask from many leaders coming back into the office regularly. That only underscores the need for corporate leaders, HR included, to go the extra mile to make human connections with remote employees ― and to understand the cost-benefit analysis of remote work.
HR teams can help coordinate strategies to add more rigor to the remote work decision process: Which jobs need to be done in the office? Which are better outsourced to lower-cost locations? What locations best fit the work your company needs?
HR can help identify lower-cost talent hubs as potential sources for remote work, effectively maximizing an organization’s productivity while minimizing expenses. HR should assess if there are clusters of talent that are cheaper and easier to recruit from, but also whether the savings from employing a remote strategy is worth the trade-offs such as in-person oversight, team camaraderie and cohesive workplace culture.
Related: Top 5 HR Challenges You Must Overcome When Expanding Globally
5. Instill a diverse culture to create more ideas
A more diverse team is also a more innovative team. In times of financial stress, pressure can build to push diversity, equity and inclusion practices to the back burner. But an important function of HR teams will always be their ability to apply data to safeguard against implicit bias when hiring and recruiting employees. In the long run, this can be a competitive business advantage.
As organizations start to employ talent more globally, it’s increasingly important to consider ethnic diversity, understand different cultures and learn how best to work with people from unfamiliar backgrounds.