‘Human Resources’ Just Doesn’t Tell You What HR Really Does

Here’s a simple truth. Human resources is an outdated term.

The HR director or HR coordinator no longer just focuses on hiring and firing employees and making sure the company is in compliance with benefits and payroll.

In fact, many businesses are even shying away from the title HR coordinator, as it may sound stuffy or scary, and – worst of all — it appears to commoditize human beings. Certainly, people are an organization’s greatest resource, but they aren’t smartphones, replaced with the newest model every two years. They’re also not raw materials or working capital, used until the supply is depleted and then replenished in time for the next initiative.

To remain competitive and productive, it’s up to the C-suite to revitalize and invigorate employees, so they continue to perform their best. And that is a key reason many successful organizations are changing “head of human resources” to “chief people officer,” “chief happiness officer” and “mood coordinator.”

Just as the phrase to describe HR professionals has evolved and expanded, so, too, have the duties of that department.

The HR departments of the past were segregated as their own separate entity, not part of the employee team and also not quite part of upper management. But how can an organization focus on building a strong company culture and creating happy employees with a strong purpose if the person in charge of that function isn’t part of the team they seek to lead?

The HR department requires a cultural overhaul, some reputation management and a PR facelift. HR is evolving in creative ways to fit today’s innovative HR titles.

The new generation of HR titles doesn’t leave room to treat people like commodities. Once HR personnel begin thinking of themselves as a chief happiness officer or even mood coordinator, it opens the door to viewing employees as people with feelings, goals and ambitions both inside and outside the office. It’s the job of today’s HR professional to take into account those aspects of workers’ personalities as they seek to manage the overall cultural climate of the office, workplace morale and productivity.

Perhaps it was the millennial influence that affirmed for employees that personal fulfillment matters in the workplace. Or maybe it’s technology that blends work and life into one, giving employees more flexibility to perform their duties on their own terms. In all likelihood, a number of factors have given way to the evolution of HR.

With the growth of flex-time, video conferencing technology and bring your own device (BYOD) policies, the HR professional is managing more moving parts than ever before. The upside is that each of these factors, when managed well, empowers employees to do their jobs with greater efficiency. And empowered employees are happy and productive employees.

HR’s role today covers employee engagement and empowerment, employee experiences (the day-to-day office experience as well as workplace amenities and organized team-building activities) and the workplace culture. And that’s before you get into recruiting and candidate experiences.

It’s no easy feat, which is why HR professionals must find the balance between workplace flexibility and getting the job done. In the past, it was the HR leader’s job to ensure everyone was treated equally. Now, it’s about treating every employee fairly – and taking steps to ensure that everything, from their hours and primary work location to their benefits, and even the technology they use, is customized to the employee’s specific needs.

HR and technology have blended. Smart HR teams have evolved to keep pace. This department no longer simply manages people but also works with the CIO to manage the technology they use – all with the goal of happier, more productive workers. HR directors, who get CIOs in their corner, will discover limitless possibilities to use technology to build a video culture, enable workplace flexibility and enhance productivity.

As the role of the HR department continues to evolve, the very concept of human resources may be phased out. And new titles may reflect leaders, who are not gatekeepers and enforcer of rules, but partners in creating a company culture built upon the shared values of the organization and its workers.

A version of this was first posted on Entrepreneur.

Performance Reviews are Dead: Use Technology to Develop Employees

If the thought of performance reviews makes you cringe, you aren’t alone. Research supports the fact that performance reviews are pretty much universally viewed as ineffective. So it generated a lot of attention, if not a ton of surprise, when GE—recently named by Forbes as the ninth largest company in the world —announced it was scrapping annual performance reviews in favor of more frequent engagement with employees.

HR professionals, recruiters, and organizational change experts have been forecasting the demise of the performance review for years, not just because research says we don’t like them, but because they’re all but irrelevant for a broad swath of employees.

Millennials and their more mature counterparts in the workplace are often more likely to request, and respond positively to, regular feedback that both recognizes stellar performance as well as identifies how they can improve. This is a change from the status quo, but that’s good news for managers. Not only are workers more likely to be open to feedback, there are tech tools that make that dialogue easier.

Millennials Want To Improve Now, Not Next Year

Speaking of Millennials, they are not a particularly patient bunch—and that’s a good thing. Karie Willyerd, the workplace futurist for SuccessFactors, quoted a Millennial in an article written for HBR: “I would like to move ahead in my career. And to do that, it’s very important to be in touch with my manager, constantly getting coaching and feedback from him so that I can be more efficient and proficient.” What an improvement that is over waiting around for that once or twice yearly performance evaluation and subsequent conversation with the boss.

Reflecting on research done by SuccessFactors and Oxford Economics, Willyerd said, “What [Millennials] want most from their managers isn’t more managerial direction, per se, but more help with their own personal development.”

What does that mean for an open feedback loop? Here’s a look at the kind of input that works.

Millennials are motivated to prove their ability to do a task well. Feedback that reinforces what people are doing right, not just what they’ve done wrong, recognizes strengths and abilities while also letting them know how to improve.

More than that, if someone isn’t suited for a task, they’d rather know about it now and move on to other things they’re better at doing. The awareness that Millennials want constant feedback has been often unfairly described as narcissism or the result of helicopter parenting, but it just makes sense. Imagine doing a job for 12 months only to be told you weren’t good enough at it? The core idea behind regular feedback resonates with employees across generations: Put me where I work best, both for my sake and for the company.

People hate criticism. Negative reinforcement doesn’t work for employees, and—when it comes once a year, with another 12 months before they find out whether they’ve improved—it becomes a morale killer. Taking an iterative approach, as GE has, makes it easier for people to receive criticism and drive momentum on the things that truly matter to their own development, while also having an impact on the company as a whole.

Ongoing feedback benefits both managers and employees. Millennials, the largest demographic in the workforce, hate performance reviews more than anyone—but they aren’t the only ones. Anyone with a forward-thinking mindset wants regular feedback and coaching so they can do their best work at the right time. They want jobs that they love, and they want to be doing things that are interesting and fulfilling to them. Feedback helps employees stay engaged and motivated, and it helps managers attract and retain top talent. A win-win.

Add Technology to the Review Process

As you move from yearly reviews to open communication, there are a number of purpose-built tools that can you can explore to help with the process. These include offerings from companies like Impraise, Workday, Glint, and 15five, to name just a few, that can help with your new process. Each is built to encourage regular (even daily) dialog and can help make this concept a reality within your workplace.

Feedback goes both ways, and employees need to feel safe to share their thoughts; it’s up to employers to pick the right technology and introduce it in a way that clarifies its intent.

It’s important to remember that real-time feedback isn’t just a matter of adding new apps to your processes; it also requires a shift in mindset. An organization can’t just talk about change; it has to show their employees a commitment to change. As such, technology can be both a boon and a danger. If you rely too heavily on technology—in this case, an employee engagement platform, and take the humanity out of relationships, you’ll reinforce the idea that your people are just a cog in the machine instead of valued human beings. in a myriad of ways. Better culture, happier employees, more productive teams, more productive managers, and greater profitability overall. As you reshape your company’s culture of feedback to become more continuous, your employees’ development will be tied to the company’s development and growth. And that’s really what the performance review was supposed to do in the first place.

What do you think about performance reviews? As an employee, do you like or loathe them, or do you fall somewhere in between? As an employer or HR pro, what are your thoughts? I’d love to hear.

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