Do Your HR Processes Impact the Employee Experience? Learn Why They Should
Est. Read Time: 6 min.
The term “employee experience” is new and buzz-worthy, but the concept behind it is not. At the core of the employee experience come two critical building blocks: policy and process. Neither are sexy or groundbreaking. In fact, even the most astute and engaged HR professionals react to this statement with either a grimace, knowing how hard it is to make them exciting, or with a dismissive wave of the hand to say, “Obviously, the process impacts employee experience —everyone knows that!”
Both responses are valid, but they also tell me that the audience in question doesn’t see the core connection between the building blocks themselves and the concept of building a world-class employee experience.
And so, I pose the question, when you design a policy or a process—how do you go about doing so? Do you copy and paste from a professional blog, resource site, or something you “borrowed” from your last employer just to get something documented? Or do you actually take the time to plan it, the same way you’d plan a dinner party?
It’s like building a menu based on not just efficiency and expediency, but considering the humans involved. Are there allergies? Are they vegetarians? How do you accommodate the greatest number of people and provide them with an experience that makes them want to stay for dessert? That’s the difference between accepting a process as a necessary evil, and appreciating it as core to your employee experience.
The people side of policies and processes
There must be a human element to experience design. As HR professionals, we need to consider the experience of delivering this policy to a human, sitting in front of us, especially one whose present need or circumstance may diverge from the standard application.
When an employee initiates, or is impacted by, an HR policy and its corresponding process, think about how that employee feels—whether the process is transparent to them, or automated in the background. Nine times out of ten, the employee’s biggest concern is simply the outcome and clearing any hurdles on the way to that outcome.
A process that includes a rigorous approval matrix may slow things down and feel unnecessarily bureaucratic to the employee waiting for their long-sought promotion. A process only available at certain times of the year may feel burdensome to the manager who desperately needs an additional headcount in order to deliver the best possible experience to their customers.
First things first: process prioritization
Whether it’s through a coordinated transformation effort, or deliberate evolution of your HR Service Delivery function, one of the most important steps you can take is to prioritize your HR services or processes. It can be a complex effort, especially since there may be uncomfortable points that challenge conventional wisdom, including your own perspective.
Start by building yourself a list (you know we operations folks love a list). When categorizing the processes in scope, think in terms of tasks that have a trigger and an action that can be measured to completion. If your focus is improving onboarding as a program, your process list may include candidate transition, pre-boarding activities, day 1 orientation, etc.
Each of these processes has an owner, stakeholders, some type of communication or documentation process—all of which should be captured—but they also have a few important factors that will help you prioritize. At the most basic level, consider two parameters to help you generate a four-box: scope and volume. Limited scope/low volume at the bottom left, to global scope/high volume at the top right.
Adding additional parameters can help justify resource utilization and, in the event that your prioritization doesn’t match your expectations or those of your key stakeholders, this will help with convincing. You may want to consider the process or service’s impact on compliance, and the overall level of effort the process requires today.
These and other parameters may lead you down a slightly different path with an adjusted prioritization, which is why it’s important to understand your remit and stick closely to it. If your goal is improved productivity rates, then no matter how high the volume and broad the scope, the processes with the lowest level of effort will take a back seat. If you’re preparing the organization for IPO, the impact on compliance of any given process will likely lead the charge.
Once you’ve determined these processes and parameters of measurement, bring the team together for a brainstorming session. While it may be easier to do this in a vacuum, relying on your years of expertise, you only represent one perspective. Representation from leadership, from the employee population, and from your operations team performing the functions will create a more full picture and go a long way to building consensus at the end of the prioritization process.
Lay it all out with process mapping
Now, sit down and map your processes. Don’t worry—you don’t need special software or a six-sigma expert on your team. You need the players involved, and a whiteboard. Make a list of everything that happens. Every output, every task or transaction, every system, and every engagement point with an employee or a people manager. Start with what’s happening today. Resist your natural desire to fix things as you go—you never know what downstream problem you may accidentally create by changing something that precedes it. Go end-to-end with steps.
Now, go back and figure out how long each step takes for the average circumstance. Don’t solve for outliers on either end of the spectrum. Your goal here is to map current state and identify and understand your pain points.
Next, keeping the team around the table, agree on what the actual goal of the process is—a simple, final output. This aids you in your next goal: defining the critical path. Critical path shows you what absolutely must be accomplished for the process to be successful. Reviewing your new hire stock grant process? A list of grants needs to be approved by the committee or board, and loaded into your stock management system. There are some nice-to-have communications along the way, but you can’t complete the process without these two milestones.
Now, how do you get to each milestone? Consider what systems are in place today and where there may be gaps in tech that would increase efficiency. Finally, side-by-side with (or below) your current-state process on the whiteboard, start to plug in the critical path, and the key triggers and steps. Cut out anyone in the process who isn’t adding value, or improving compliance. Consolidate communications, identify key places to communicate, and centralize the ownership of that communication.
Keep everyone together and run this through as a team. Some people may see being cut out as a slight, but remind them that you’ve improved efficiency and saved them time and effort by doing so. If what they care about is visibility and transparency, there’s always a way to include that if necessary—without slowing down the process.
In reviewing the process as a team, consider that human element. How could you explain the need for each approval level, delay, or requirement along the path, in a way the employee can understand and appreciate? That’s the impact process has on employee experience.
Effective HR operations, effective employees
For the vast majority, process and policy can be boring topics. But if you view them through the lens of human interaction, they take on a new life. They give you the opportunity to impact something mundane and everyday to help your employees see you as enablement and not impediment. HR is not the police or a roadblock, but the engine making the business operate effectively, and letting them get back to their day job.
At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is that you are also an employee. Use that lens to validate your approach and to provide yourself and your team with truthful feedback and assessment.
Managing policies and processes is exponentially easier when using HR case management technology. Understand what it is and exactly how it impacts the employee experience in our on-demand webinar, Case Management: The Key to a Better Employee Experience, featuring Sarah Brennan, founder of HR tech advisory firm, Accelir Insights.
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About Ryan Higginson-Scott
Ryan Higginson-Scott is an accomplished innovator in the world of global people operations. With nearly 20 years experience across all HR functions, he has led diverse and award-winning teams in a broad set of industries - including higher education, corporate retail, high tech, biotech/pharma, and hospitality - always focused on enabling a powerful and rewarding employee experience. Balancing the need for process, policy and compliance, with the goals of sustainable growth and agile operational efficiency, Ryan is an advocate for continuous, data-driven feedback, and iteration on all fronts. He has shared his experience through guest contribution to well-known HR blogs and podcasts, and leads employment-related workshops with several area non-profits. He is a believer in HR disruption and a vocal proponent of any technology that seeks to reconsider not only the how, but also the why behind the way we operate in HR. Today, Ryan lives in the Boston area and leads Global HR Operations at Fuze, Inc.