Processes Matter In Human Resources Too!

Amit Badkas, HR Director, FireEyeAmit, in his career spanning over two decades, has been associated with multinational corporate that include i-flex solutions, Dell, Wipro, and Aricent, prior to joining FireEye in 2015.

One of our roles as HR leaders is that of creating ‘Process Excellence’. As Dave Ulrich has pointed out in his HR model, process focus has two dimensions. Process with a strategic focus creates an HR role as a ‘Strategic Change Agent’. At the same time, process with an emphasis on operational tasks creates another dimension for HR professionals – that of an ‘Administrative expert’. Both aspects are equally important for an HR professional to master in order to deliver optimal business results.

As part of being a ‘Strategic Change Agent’, one needs to drive processes around people excellence like performance management, talent management, talent acquisition, succession planning, career development and so on. These are things which would deliver results over a period of time but require sustained efforts and patient investment. In fact, I have seen that even employee engagement can be made as a strategic program by going about and defining processes around it and then making sure that we sustain those processes.

On the other hand, don’t underestimate the operational processes like payroll management, benefits administration, legal compliance, document and record keeping, leave management and others. While these processes could be treated as hygiene factors, any weak link could become a reason for a not so good employee experience. So, what are the things to consider while building processes? Here are few thoughts on how you could go about creating and sustaining world class HR processes.

Define the Problem: As a starting point, one needs to gather data and enumerate pain points. These could be due to lack of process, a breakdown of process or the more painful one, lack of following process by stakeholders. The best way to start is to gather those who are closely involved with running that function or that particular body of work together in a room and get them to brainstorm on clearly bring out the issues on the table. Many a times this group could be a cross functional group.

Create a Process: Get this group to now focus on solutions. One could use diagrams, charts, word
documents or presentations but the important thing to do is to come up with a process which would solve the problem defined in the first place. Typically, as you go through the exercise, once realizes that the solution could actually be a dramatic change or a small change like removing the bottlenecks.

Map the Stakeholders: As next step, we need to find out the key stakeholders and get their opinion and buy in. The best approach is to seek suggestions and feedback early in the day before implementation. In last few years, most companies have started to involve employee groups or employee representatives as part of the process or policy design. This helps to socialize change and helps to gain acceptance later on.

Communication Plan: You should not underestimate the requirement to have a good communication plan around the process change. One needs to communicate as to how the process change will happen, about the transition plan and what the benefits are.

As part of being a ‘Strategic Change Agent’, one needs to drive processes around people excellence like performance management, talent management, talent acquisition, succession planning, and career development

Feedback & Incremental Change: Many organisations now have a practice of having policies in “beta” phase, which is IT parlance is like it’s in work in progress mode and a change is possible to be incorporated. Even in the absence of a pilot launch, it is advisable that we allow for feedback on new policies or processes and be willing to make tweaks if required.

Factors to Consider While Creating or Writing HR Processes:
Business Benefits: There could be very tangible business benefits by bringing-in process improvement. As an example, I can share about what we did at a semiconductor company where I worked. They would bill their clients for their services by the 15th of the next month after payment due date. This is because the leave management and the timesheet process were manual, based on excel sheets. After we changed the process to an online portal using a cloud based HRIS, the billing could be done within the first week of next month. Faster billing by 7-10 days meant faster receivables and we actually helped reduce the cash flow cycle for the company substantially.

Automate, Automate, Automate: This is kind of rudimentary, but you will be surprised how many manual processes could still exist, even in mature companies – it could be because ‘It has always been done this way’ or ‘Govt. wants it this way’. But look at where we could challenge status quo. Similar to the above example, we reduced the time and effort of our HR team by significantly automating a hitherto manual process like maintaining joining documents.

Share Information Digitally: Wherever possible, share processes widely and make them available to people where they can look up information on their own. It could be on intranet, common folders collaboration platforms like Microsoft teams. But do consider providing information to people where they could get it at their fingertips.

Good Processes Help: Well defined HR processes could help your team members deliver better results and then make their output amenable to measurement. And what gets measured gets reviewed and improved upon.

While this is a vast subject, with many facets, consider defining and incorporating a process culture and process improvement as a key success factor for your workplace.