The human resources (HR) department is a critical partner for many businesses, but the best-practice strategies of this industry have shifted over the last five to 10 years.
HR has long been painted as the hiring and firing department – the people who surface from the depths of the building when things hit the proverbial fan. But according to Brentwood resident and Internal Human Resources consultant Regina Lawless, the industry has made an intentional shift to anticipate the needs of the business, as opposed to being reactive.
“We’re trying to offer the value before the business knows they need it,” Lawless says. “In recent years, the focus has been on using workforce analytics (employee data) and taking a look at what’s going on in the external environment – using those insights to bring HR solutions to the business.”
Workforce analytics can compute anything from diversity trends to turnover rates over time and draw insights that allow companies to become more sophisticated and anticipate problems.
One of the ways this kind of proactivity can be achieved is by focusing not only on attracting skilled talent, but also on retaining it. Nurturing an individual’s growth within a company by providing in-house training and developmental courses can aid in retention.
It’s a common notion that new hires, even college graduates, will still need additional or complete retraining to master the skills needed for the job they’ve landed. With provided courses or a training system that pairs junior and senior talent, the resulting environment is one in which employees often feel more dedicated and passionate about their growth within the company.
Another proactive approach has been to get involved at the organization’s strategic, planning stages – helping companies form and adhere to the business plans they laid down at inception. One of Lawless’ most important roles is making sure the organization is stepping into the future with its own goals in mind, and this involves poking holes in plans to see where something has been overlooked.
“We’re trying to get predictive to help the business make good decisions,” Lawless said, noting HR personnel should stay on top of trends; to look beyond the company and see where the industry is shifting. “For example, we might see a certain company is laying off, and think, ‘let’s take advantage of that workforce.’ HR is never going to be the business expert, but if we know enough about what’s going on, we’ll know which ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions to ask, which helps businesses achieve their goals and solve problems.”
Another dynamic component for HR is to help the company build the right culture to be successful. This includes hiring wisely, team building and open, peer-to-peer communication. Creating a strong company culture links back to attracting the best candidates, but it also cultivates an environment with high morale – one that makes employees feel valued and respected as adults.
An organization with high morale is one with reduced turnover, higher productivity and, ultimately, higher profits. Building this culture goes hand-in-hand with identifying values the organization and employees are looking for and working toward delivering.
These values can range from nurturing work-life balance or a competitive dynamic within the team to community participation and career development, but each strategy should be tailored to the needs of the organization.
As the HR field grows along with the companies, the expansion of ideas around how to hone proactive practices is pushing away the dated processes of only addressing issues once they arise.
As Dave Ulrich, one of the country’s well-known HR professionals and co-founder of The RBL Group says, “Identify the organization capabilities (culture, systems, processes, resources and so forth) that enable organizations to win over time.”
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