Following what has always been done is comfortable, like a warm blanket. It’s safe — but failing to change or evolve in this fast-moving economy and talent market could be to an organization’s detriment. It’s important for HR leaders and team members to consider themselves trend hunters and thought leaders operating with a mindset where creativity and new ideas are welcomed. This doesn’t mean being cavalier. Rather, it means being open to new ideas and seeking them out, taking the time to vet and discuss them, as well as implementing programs strategically that can drive department or organizational change.
The ROI of HR
The resistance to change in human resources in part comes from the fact that the department is seen as a cost or expenditure versus a revenue-generating center. As HR grew in complexity and became more involved in business forecasting, establishing business ROI and executing progress that could be directly tied to future and current business success, so evolved the role of the HR professional into something more than it ever intended to be. We are strategic business partners forcibly involved in the success of organizations evaluating not just hiring, firing and traditional hiring advisory roles but so much more. This is where the HR ROI Scale developed by Paul Kearns comes into play.
As our roles become more complex and more strategic with the organization, the metrics of HR become less important, because the real value we provide is in the larger organization as a whole. Challenging yourself as an HR leader means adopting new methods and processes, thereby demonstrating a value for your organization that goes beyond ROI.
Consider HR technology. Jason Averbook, co-founder and CEO of LeapGen, says that human resources must look beyond their department silos and focus on workforce technology that is focused on business processes, tools, and resources for the end user which in this case isn’t HR but managers and their teams (Workology podcast #118: Finding the ROI In Your Workplace & HR Technology #hrtech). The key when implementing successful tech, Jason says, is to always be in perpetual beta, meaning that there is always change, improvements, and enhancements, just like you see in consumer technology. This move towards “perpetual beta” has happened because of new cloud-based workforce technologies making it easier to update, enhance and change the experience and structure for enterprise technology users.
Perpetual beta doesn’t just apply to technology. If you’re always working with a new test model in HR, it seems less risky because you’re labeling it as such. It’s an easier sell to management, and the “test and scale” methodology that is so popular in tech startups gives you room to fail — which can help get you out of the same/same mindset and into a change adoption state.
In HR, like in marketing, it is difficult to put a number on the value of new programs or processes. What you can measure, however, is workplace adoption rates, employee engagement increase or decrease, and scalability. Because change is constant in the workforce, it’s natural for HR to be a change leader and early adopter. One great example is the wave of companies adopting unlimited PTO. While we don’t know what company was first to execute, we can imagine how the conversation went between HR and company executives. Companies needed a way to stand out to candidates and differentiate their perks. It was likely a HR leader who said “let’s take our two weeks of sick and vacation time and make it unlimited PTO.” Cue the company CEO and executives chorus of “no’s.” And then one company did it, with the bonus side effect of earned media coverage. Once that domino fell, other companies rushed to do the same and became part of a corporate experiment that resulted in happier employees. SHRM data suggests only about 1% of employers offer open PTO, so it’s definitely a big step, but it’s an excellent example of challenging the status quo.
James C. Owens
CEO and President