6 ways HR can be more strategic: Insight from GoDaddy
by Jolene Nicotina November 07 2018
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The way we work is evolving faster than any of us could have imagined. Even HR isn’t immune. Today’s organizations no longer look to HR to simply execute company policies. The expectation is that HR functions as a strategic partner with clear contributions to the bottom line. And this isn’t just a requirement of Talent Acquisition or Training and Development. Traditionally admin-heavy departments, like HR Operations or HR Services, must be more strategic, too. But what exactly does HR need to do to act as a strategic partner to the business?
For Zuri Baker, Director of HR Operations at GoDaddy, “It’s about being part of the solution.” Four years ago she joined GoDaddy as an individual contributor. Today, she leads a 15-person team that serves 6,000 employees across 10 countries. During a PeopleDoc webinar, Zuri shared how she’s evolving her team into strategic consultants to the business. Based on her experience, below are 6 ways HR can be more strategic.
1. Understand the why
Those in HR Operations or HR Services may often feel like it’s their job to simply respond to requests, especially because the nature of the work tends to be more transactional. But Zuri’s mantra is “Don’t be an order-taker, always add value.” She discourages her team from automatically delivering, and instead challenges them to add value to the conversation and their approach. “Understanding the 'why' behind [the ask] and peeling back those layers to understand the context is so important. That’s how you can be a good consultant.”
Although this isn’t always easy, it’s necessary. “Sometimes people wish you would do whatever they say and not provide that extra opinion, but at the end of the day you would be doing them and the organization a disservice,” advises Zuri.
2. Bring your team on the journey
HR Operations can be a particularly challenging function to position as strategic. “People consider us low man on the HR totem pole,” says Zuri. For a period of time, her team felt as if the work they did was “the stuff that no one else wants.” To transform this perception of HR, Zuri not only made sure she worked more strategically as a leader, but that her entire team developed a more strategic mindset. “It’s about transforming the way people see you based on how you show up. If you show up as a strategic partner, people will start to see you as a strategic partner.”
3. Partner proactively
A big part of strategic HR involves stepping outside of the silos by making connections throughout the company and asking a lot of questions. Zuri constantly keeps a pulse on the initiatives COEs, HR Business Partners and other teams are working on so she can see where HR Operations can provide value. “I really see it as my job to be thinking across the workstreams and making sure that people are connected...I spend a lot of time pulling people into the conversation across the organization.”
Zuri’s readiness to collaborate has proved especially helpful during M&A at GoDaddy, which involves a huge cross-functional team with interconnected workstreams. She also maintains a strong partnership with IT, giving them visibility into HR’s priorities, even if they don’t always require IT support.
4. Support strategic corporate objectives
There’s no argument that business success relies on an engaged, productive workforce. But this link may not always be so clear to others, which means HR must align their contributions to the bottom line. Zuri’s team makes sure everything they do from a systems, operations and process perspective is scalable in order to support GoDaddy’s evolution into a global company. Though she admits they learned this the hard way. When GoDaddy acquired 1,100 employees in Europe, her team had to re-implement their US-centric processes so they could support a global workforce.
Now, the team is focused on growth, which is more in sync with GoDaddy’s corporate objectives. “It’s important for us to bring scale, ensuring that what we’re doing is going to work across the board not just for the employee populations that we have right now, but also for the employee populations in the future,” says Zuri.
5. Use technology to work differently, not just faster
GoDaddy’s capacity to focus more on strategic tasks is due, in part, to technology. By leveraging technology to do the heavy lifting, Zuri and her team aren’t mired in manual processes and paper. “Technology is really the gateway to HR Operations, as a function, being strategic. Without it, we would just be doing all the same things we used to do and [doing them] much more manually,” says Zuri. Now that the HR Operations team at GoDaddy must be much more tech-savvy, they’re growing their skill sets, mindsets and exploring other ways to get work done, resulting in very little turnover on the team.
6. Keep employee experience top of mind
Though HR must balance the needs of employees and the business, the two are inextricably linked—companies with high employee engagement have seen a 4% increase in sales growth. Business success always comes back to people success, so for HR to be strategic they should focus on the employee experience (EX). GoDaddy’s corporate objectives are tied to EX, which cascades down to Zuri’s team because often the first HR encounter new employees have outside of recruiting is with HR Operations. “Employee experience first is a guiding principle at GoDaddy. It really is woven into the fabric of how we make decisions.”
In practice, GoDaddy is developing employee and manager personas to understand the different experiences they need to solve for. For example, an employee in Europe may have concerns that are different from a US employee. Or, managers of hourly employees may have needs that differ from managers of salaried employees. They even consider the employee experience when evaluating the look and feel of their internal tools and systems, making sure to choose those with a slick and intuitive user interface.
Overall, the role of HR is changing—for the better. Technology is enabling HR to be more strategic by spending less time on administration, management and compliance and more time on initiatives that empower the workforce for business success. After all, isn’t helping people what working in HR is all about?
Jolene Nicotina is the Content Marketing Manager for North America at PeopleDoc, Inc. She works on making sure HR professionals have all the latest information they need related to HR service delivery, HR technology, and PeopleDoc, Inc. Prior to PeopleDoc, Jolene worked in marketing communications for the healthcare technology industry.