Technology has evolved through time to help connect people over distances great and small. Letters, telegraphs, telephones, emails, texts, and instant messaging are all great examples of this. Some of the unintended outcomes of this trend have been in the spotlight recently, especially around the (mis)use of social media and AI.  The debates around balancing technology and humanity will continue for as long as both exist. As we start to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic and people return more permanently to the physical workplace, work from home permanently, or do some hybrid of the two, this is HR's opportunity to review and renew your relationships with your people and your technology.

As much as we love the idea of one big thing that will change everything, true change comes from the cumulative impact of many actions, some small and some not so small. The terms "culture" and "cultivate" come from the same Latin root word – colere. Culture doesn’t just happen, it requires diligent cultivation and nurturing over time. When used properly, HR technology can positively impact this process by improving people’s sense of inclusion, care, and belonging as well as objectively helping with equitable outcomes. Below are some key places in the employee life cycle where your technology can drive clear results for your people.

Managing through uncertainty HR technology and culture banner

Recruiting

Make sure your recruiting aligns with best practices regarding diverse and inclusive outreach. If you’re using AI for candidate searches, verify that the models used will help mitigate and not amplify biases. It should help you focus in on key skills and on the actions that are critical for specific roles rather than focusing solely on demographic information.

Another factor right now for recruiting is that, similar to what happened in earlier recessions, many people are looking to change careers – some because they have no choice and others because they now want to pursue their passions. This means many people will apply to jobs they may not have listed on their resumes, but ones where they could absolutely excel. COVID-19 may have put the war for talent on pause for a bit, but like a rock loaded in a slingshot it will return with a vengeance.

Systems that let you efficiently sort through strengths assessments and understand transferable skills will help you find – or be – that needle in the haystack. Applying AI techniques like sentiment analysis can be a big advantage here as well, as they can let you summarize feedback from recruiting team evaluations and quickly understand common feelings expressed about different candidates without losing momentum reading through many individual responses.

Onboarding and reboarding

Onboarding is your first impression as an employer after attracting and hiring best-fit candidates through your recruiting pipeline, so if you want to avoid first-year turnover you need to get it right. The criticality of this doesn't lessen when employees are remote either.

At the very least, an efficient process to get through the admin tasks of completing paperwork is a must. The more you can do to communicate with and prepare both new hires and the employees responsible for them, the better. Buddy systems and mentor assignments help ease the burden on HR teams and build employee relationships. Something as simple as an auto alert to whomever will be greeting the new hire can have a huge impact. Think of your first day. Were you met with, “And you are…?  Oh.  Let me see if I can find someone who knows what’s happening,” or was it, “Welcome.  We’ve been expecting you. Here’s your badge and some company swag. Let me tell your director you’re here and then I’ll walk you back to your desk.”

For your rehired team members who are returning after leaving or being put on furlough – a similarly engaging welcome back process will help them know they’ve made the right decision to return.

Engagement insights, actions, and follow-up

Sentiment analysis has also long been used to check how a company’s products and services are resonating with their customers. In recent years it has rightfully found its way into the employer/employee relationship. The big difference is companies are way more apt to act on customer feedback versus employee feedback. Ignoring or misinterpreting these employee insights is done at one’s own peril. How much do you want to speak when you know no one is listening? The more you can act upon the insights and then re-engage to see how you’re doing – and share those results – the more engagement increases over time.

Scheduling and notifications

For shift and gig workers, clear communication of schedules and locations may seem a tad mundane, but they demonstrate how much an employer values their people's time. These practices aren't just good for your bottom line, they're good for your people's sense of well-being and safety as well. If we can oversimplify the relationship for a moment, time is the employee’s main currency in this transaction. Thinking beyond COVID-19, other unforeseen events such as those in areas prone to hurricanes and wildfires have had to shut down workplaces. Centralized emergency communications demonstrate a care not only for employees’ time, but for their mental and physical health as well.

Giving

Consumer expectations regarding corporate citizenship will continue to carry over to employee expectations. Simple paths for employees to contribute and for companies to match those funds help you put your money where your mouth is. This is a simple way for you to establish transparent communication practices that lead to concrete actions supporting the causes your people care about.

Organizational network analysis (ONA)

Looking beyond traditional org charts, ONA tools help you uncover how work is really being done and by whom. Similar to how understanding transferable skills helps you find hidden talent, ONA will reveal those who positively impact change, engagement, and productivity. The word “influencer” has lost its weight in recent years, so I personally prefer the term people of impact. Find them. Cultivate them. Leverage them. Reward them.  For those you find working in isolation – bring them back into the fold. Pairing ONA with a strong succession planning strategy will ensure you're always ready to fill gaps and are maximizing the potential of the people you have.

Performance and learning

Many on all sides of the process have long been dissatisfied with the traditional once-a-year performance review. Even within the constraints of budgets and fiscal year planning, continuous development of talent can still flourish. Ideally your people should receive some level of reflection and feedback at least quarterly. This is especially important for younger generations of workers who put high value on regular check-ins and frequent communication. Some systems have these more frequent cadences built in, while others may require a bit of configuration. Matching those goals and reflections with meaningful training opportunities is a powerful combination for engagement, retention, and productivity.

Exit interviews

The reality we all have to face is that no matter what HR does to support people through technology, some of them will leave. In fact, recent data shows 40 percent of workers are thinking about quitting their current jobs. Best case, you should be using some of the tools and practices mentioned above to reduce attrition, but when folks do leave be sure to leverage this as an opportunity to receive candid feedback. The insights gained are immensely valuable for organizational self-reflection and can help you continuously improve processes to fill the gaps that lead to flight risk.

Conclusion: Find out what's next for your HR technology and company culture

No matter what industry you’re in and if you’re doing all the above or none, COVID-19 has provided a unique opportunity to reflect and reset. Use meaningful insights from your HR technology to take meaningful actions with diligence and consistency. Then repeat and refine as needed.

If you need help convincing your organization of the value modern HR technology can have for all the different areas we just talked through, I invite you to use our UKG Value Estimator tool to get your own personalized report on where you'll see the biggest impact.

Published: Tuesday, June 22, 2021