How can HR professionals demonstrate the strategic value they provide to a company? A Q&A with Annabel Jones - HR Director at ADP UKHR plays a key role in enabling organisations to meet their strategic goals. It helps the wider business understand what its employees value, and what makes them productive, and keeps them engaged. How can HR professionals demonstrate the strategic value they provide to the company?

What do stakeholders expect from HR?

Today’s HR professionals work in an increasingly complex environment, requiring them to master all aspects of business and management. Stakeholders count on HR to manage the internal talent pool, increase productivity and build the employer brand, while being cost efficient and supporting the business with appropriate people strategies. In addition, HR professionals must constantly listen and adapt to the requirements of senior executives, line managers and staff, while creating a culture that is attractive to prospective employees. With so many stakeholders to consider, accommodating the various needs and demands can be a difficult task.

How can HR become a strategic business partner?

People are an organisation’s most important asset, so HR really is at the heart of setting the strategic direction of the business. In order to achieve and maintain this position, HR must align its approach with the broader business model and show how it can drive the organisation toward high performance. A HR strategy touches every aspect of the business and should reflect its wider objectives and vision, while preparing the company for what the future might bring. Thinking in terms of ‘Human Capital’ can really help HR shape their agenda and focus on delivering results. The key idea is that by carefully managing and investing in their people, companies can enhance the value they generate.

How can HR better focus on serving the strategic agenda?

The core tasks of HR professionals cover an array of activities, from hiring the right talent and ensuring their professional development, to acting as an internal coach. With such a demanding agenda, HR must consider how it can become a well-oiled machine and show its true value as a strategic business partner. Companies often find that transactional and administrative tasks that don’t require HR’s full focus may be best served by an external specialist. Handing over these tasks will free up time and release HR from time consuming paperwork, enabling them to focus on strategic imperatives, while ensuring compliance.

What are the benefits of HR standardisation and automation?

By automating and standardising processes, HR and payroll departments can ensure consistency and full alignment. Standardisation reduces the costs and time required for daily tasks and gives comparable information to decision makers across different departments. Technology plays a key part in facilitating this strategic move. With a comprehensive Human Capital Management system in place, organisations can make processes more strategic for executives, more empowering for managers, more engaging for employees and more efficient for HR. Standardisation also ensures that everyone speaks the same language.

How do HR strategies influence employee engagement and productivity?

Establishing a HR strategy that caters to the employee is essential to their engagement and productivity level. Inspiring leadership and efficient line management play a major role in enabling this and dictating the strategy. By building two-way relationships, organisations can truly listen to their employees and understand what motivates them. Strategically planning how your organisation will meet its current and future HR needs, and aligning this with employees’ individual development plans, is critical for success. Employees who feel that they are constantly developing and moving along their chosen career path are more satisfied, which is good for engagement, retention and productivity.

How can HR define and measure the value they add to the organisation?

HR already owns much of an organisation’s most valuable internal information – its ‘people data’. This information can provide organisations with a wealth of insight into employees, workplace trends and the overall company performance. For a long time, HR departments have been investing in software devoted to capturing, reporting and securely storing this information. However, these systems are often disconnected and out-of-date.

The technology developments in this space are truly interesting and will revolutionise how organisations define the value of their people. Technology-led, integrated systems enable HR to go beyond basic people metrics and demonstrate the value its employees and the HR function generate. By relying on hard figures, HR professionals can translate the value of their strategy in a way that is understood by other senior management.

Finally, what are some of the key trends that will shape the strategic agenda for HR?

The changing demographic structure of the workforce will bring about significant change in employee needs and desires. Millennials are strengthening their numbers in the workplace, with generation Z soon entering the workforce. Younger generations often have a different view on how things should be done. They are more entrepreneurial, valuing a solid work-life balance and flexible working opportunities. One of the key challenges for HR is going to be how they can cater to the different demographics.

In addition to the generational shift, organisations are becoming increasingly mobile and interconnected across the globe. Technology considerations are also strengthening the HR agenda, as businesses are considering how they can enable greater collaboration between cross-cultural and generational teams. Meanwhile, the war for talent continues to escalate, making proactive management of the talent pipeline more critical. With future business needs in mind, HR should look to recruit ‘ahead of the curve’ and engage individuals with particular competencies. Interestingly, many recruiters are turning to social media tools which enable them to target a broader pool of candidates with specific skills that would best fit a vacancy.

There’s a lot of change happening in the workplace, however, this opens an opportunity for HR to reconsider how it can add value to the organisation. By building mutual understanding and collaborating with its stakeholders, HR will be able to truly establish itself as a strategic business partner.