taking notes
HR has to rethink the traditional approaches to employee onboarding and retention if they want to remain competitive PHOTO: Alexis Brown

The role human resources (HR) play in the workplace is undergoing a major shift. 

In the past, HR concerns took a back seat to bottom line business needs. This was due in part to a lack of strong HR metrics and methods of measurement, and the balance of power between employer and employee. 

But with today's increasing jockeying for top talent, the C-level has woken up to the importance of employee engagement, retention and development.

Translating Data Into Improved Employee Experiences

Employee engagement impacts loyalty, productivity, innovation and customer satisfaction — making it clear that an engaged workforce is not simply a nice to have, it’s a necessity for creating an innovative business that can withstand the constant flow of new competition.

This has led executives to look to HR to recreate and drive the shift towards employee-centered processes, environments and strong value-based cultures, otherwise known as the employee experience. However, a gap still exists between translating data into actionable changes. 

Employee engagement is an abstract metric. Identifying a dip in your most recent engagement survey may not tell you why your people are less satisfied with their work life now than they were the month before, or how to address it. HR faces a challenge of how to make people data human.

At this critical moment, HR leaders need to open their minds to new ways of designing processes to create a totally customized and unique experience. The great thing is you won’t have to leave your organization to acquire the new skills you need. 

5 Skills HR Can Learn From Other Departments

1. Marketing: Understanding the Employee Journey

Marketers have succeeded in reaching a better understanding of a customer's mindset and emotions throughout their interactions with the company and the product. By creating customer journey maps they’ve found a way to categorically track each touchpoint a customer goes through until they make the decision to buy.

Studies have found that even one negative experience can deter customers from going through with a purchase. In fact, Oracle found 81 percent of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience. And 74 percent of senior executives believe a great experience is a key factor in driving customer loyalty. Furthermore, as marketers know, maintaining customers is more cost effective than acquiring new ones, making customer mapping extremely valuable.

Replace ‘employee’ for ‘customer’ in all of the above and you get a similar effect. 

A negative experience with recruitment portals has been shown to deter potential hires from applying for positions. Many millennials are willing to forgo a larger salary for a better quality of work life. In fact, a recent survey by Fidelity Investments revealed that on average this new young workforce would be willing to take a $7,600 pay cut in exchange for immaterial incentives like purposeful work, work/life balance and company culture. 

Finally, similar to customer retention, retaining employees has proven to be more cost effective than recruiting and retraining new people.

Given the success that marketers have had from creating customer journey maps, many HR leaders now utilize this methodology to create employee journey maps, tracking each phase from recruitment to exiting the company. 

2. Statistics: People Analytics

Once you have your journey mapped out, it’s time to fill it in with the factors that matter in your work environment. 

The best place to start is by collecting data. Where are you falling short and where would you like to improve? Are you having trouble attracting new hires? Is your goal to help develop more female leaders within the company? Do you see a dip in engagement after your annual performance review? 

The key here is to collect data regularly. An engagement survey taken at the beginning of the year won’t reflect the attitudes that developed during your company’s sudden leadership change in March. The more data you have, the easier it’ll be to compare and identify potential causes.

An array of new HR tech gadgets makes capturing and analyzing data even easier. Need to find out how much time your managers spend on coaching or who the top performers are in your company? With the rise of HR technology, solutions are available that can make your life easier by collecting, analyzing and sending the data you need.

3. Psychology: Creating Personas

Creating buyer personas is another marketing tactic that can be extremely useful when mapping out your employee journey. Rather than thinking of your workforce as a whole, creating specific employee personas brings the human side to the process, enabling you to visualize each stage from the viewpoint of a specific person. This requires you to get into the mindset of the typical employee or the ideal hire and identify their key concerns at every stage.

Rather than looking at your workforce as a whole, thinking about a specific person with a name, role and personality will help you get a better sense of what they could be experiencing. How does Anna feel about your performance review process? What factors could be inhibiting her from gaining the growth benefits this practice should provide?

4. Design: New Ways of Thinking

Once you’ve identified the potential pain points in your employee's journey, it’s time to rethink processes and propose new strategies specifically designed to eliminate these barriers. Design thinking can help you. 

Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends found the HR departments deemed most valuable were five times more likely to use design thinking. Even executives are recognizing the exciting possibilities design thinking can offer, with 79 percent rating it as an important or very important issue.

After analyzing the pain points identified, design thinking helps designers create UIs that enable a comfortable and engaging experience for users. This means departing from traditional models of onboarding, performance management, etc. which have been HR cornerstones for decades.

5. Communications: Storytelling

Storytelling is a key skill every HR manager needs to learn. While executives are finally aware of the importance of metrics like engagement, HR continues to struggle to put their ideas on the agenda. 

Even with C-level support, selling the major overhauls you would like to make to traditionally ingrained processes will not be easy.

Remember that people analytics is not just data. This information tells a story about the people in your company. HR’s role as a storyteller is essentially to translate this information into (at times provocative) stories that explain what employees are going through and what the company needs to do to improve. Learning this skill will pave the way for the new designs you have in store for your company.

The most important skill HR will need to learn is how to make HR data human. Low engagement cannot simply be solved by offering a new ping pong table or better lunches. Getting other departments to share their knowledge will allow you to improve your team's skills and get HR that seat at the table.