My Advice for HR Leaders and Providers in 2019
Happy holidays! This is one of my favorite times of the year, when we connect with family and friends, indulge in one too many holiday party hors d’oeuvres, and madly scramble to find last-minute gifts.
It’s also a time for reflection. With the end of one year comes the promise of the next — and the planning that comes with it.
So what lies ahead? It’s a question I’m often asked in my role as an advisor. In keeping with the spirit of the season, I’d like to share some of the most critical needs I see for the future of HR in 2019, both for HR practitioners and the providers who serve them.
HR: Uncover the Story in Your Data
We’re living in a golden age for HR. Think about our work in HR ten years ago. Could we have imagined our current focus on people analytics, corporate learning tools and artificial intelligence? It’s like going from driving a boxy minivan to a Maserati.
But there’s a flip side to handling that kind of speed and agility. Are we even able to drive it? We have more data available to us than ever before, and we’re able to gather more intelligence across more touch points throughout the employee life cycle. But with so much available data, the challenge is turning it into actionable insights. And to make things even more complicated, it’s easier than ever for a business owner to circumvent HR by venturing outside their organization for market intelligence. In short, HR isn’t the only nice car out in the lot.
That’s a liability for many HR departments. It may not happen tomorrow or next week, but if HR doesn’t make its voice heard, it risks losing its voice entirely.
So how do you make your voice heard? The answer is simple: Use it! You’ve got the data. Now’s the time to tap the resources of various divisions within HR to turn that data into your story. Break down the silos that exist between your departments. This cross-communication is a proven way to facilitate more strategic and creative thinking.
Remember that people respond to both stories and pictures. Find the stories that your data tells, and customize them for your audience. Make sure that you share your story with everyone it impacts. Don’t stop with the boss or the C suite. Tell your story far and wide. As an HR professional, it’s your job to help people work smarter. And with data visualization tools, you can move beyond a stagnant PowerPoint to model an endless number of dynamic scenarios in an intriguing and engaging way.
Finally, be proactive! Organizations are often large and inefficient. Don’t just wait for the question — get out in front of the question entirely.
Providers: Audit Yourself
For HR service providers, it’s time to stop making the sale. I know providers are thinking, “Whoa, Mark. Have you lost your mind?” Let me explain what I mean.
All too often, HR service providers approach their client relationships with a sales-centric mindset. They are more concerned with keeping the client happy than doing what’s best for the client.
This dynamic needs to change. With the amount of software and services provided these days, there is plenty of room for error and confusion — especially for providers who struggle to address daily problems. That introduces errors in communication. Lapses in best practices become far too common. I’ve seen too many avoidable issues arise, simply because avoiding difficult conversations is easier than ripping off the Band-Aid.
So here’s a solution: Audit yourself. Your goal is to ensure that you’re providing the best possible services. Start by looking at who is managing your clients and their needs. For many HR providers, the sales team also handles client management. Is this truly the best use of your sales team’s skills? Odds are, the answer is no.
It’s time to shift from a sales mindset to a client management mindset. The best client-facing liaisons are patient and empathetic. They have a solid understanding of the technical side of software issues; they are also unafraid of difficult conversations. This is the fundamental difference between sales and client relations. The best salesperson understands what a client wants. The best client liaison understands what a client needs.
As you go about your audit, make sure to create a standard set of best practices. It may sound like common sense, but think about how comfortable you may have become with longtime clients. That’s human nature, of course. But it can adversely impact the quality we deliver.
There’s no point sugarcoating it. An internal audit isn’t likely to win you any popularity contests. You’re going to have uncomfortable conversations both with your clients and your team. But don’t be scared of these interactions. Embrace them. Strive to communicate effectively and clearly. Stay focused on your goal, which is to be the best provider possible. Once you get the tough stuff out of the way, you’ll be offering better services, and be better positioned to engage your employees to the best of their abilities.
For All of Us: Listen More
When people ask for my own New Years Resolution, my answer is annoyingly simple: Listen more.
Yes, I’ve spent much of this post telling you to speak up. But in my thinking, HR is the important connective tissue between its own needs and the needs of the organization. If we aren’t listening, though, that delicate tissue will break.
By listening, we do two things. First, we generate empathy, an all-too rare quality in today’s world. Second, by better understanding the needs of our clients or business, the more likely they are to share ownership in our decisions, allowing us to provide customized, bespoke responses that drive real value. That’s how we’ll thrive in 2019.
After all, the better our responses, the more our voices will matter.
Wishing you and yours a prosperous, healthy and happy New Year!
With over 25 years of experience, Mark Stelzner has worked for organizations of every size and vertical. He has spent his career fostering relationships through attention to detail, natural curiosity, and a self-deprecating sense of humor.