Note to HR: Work on the essentials before you embark on transformation

Many HR leaders want to evolve beyond traditional HR activities. But to successfully transform your department, you’ll need to make sure you have the proper core functions in place. These include payroll, benefits management, risk and compliance, onboarding, strong data strategies and a clear, organized job architecture. 

Unfortunately, many HR leaders know their foundations have cracks: inefficient interfaces, insufficient data, clunky manual processes and other issues. The good news? Fixing these problem areas can help you make real progress toward your transformation goals.

Fix the cracks to evolve HR

Your transformation goals may include developing a new hybrid workforce, creating a fair and equitable workplace or delivering a world-class employee experience. If you want to create a hybrid workforce, you need complete, accurate, up-to-date data on your employees’ roles and responsibilities. That information is critical to determining which roles—now and in the future—must be performed on-site and which can be done from home.

If you want to make real progress toward creating a more equitable workplace, you should make data-driven decisions. This can help mitigate unintended bias, which often creeps into all sorts of systems and processes, from benefits programs to salary increases to career progression plans. 

If you want to deliver a better employee experience, you should make sure the basic but vital functions workers deal with every day are seamless and consistent. Do employees get paid on time? Do they have easy access to information about their salary and benefits? Is it fast and simple for staff to log their time or make changes to their personal information? Even small frustrations can degrade the overall experience employees have and erode their trust, making it harder for you to turn a good place to work into a great place to work. 

Think of it like this: If you live in a one-story house with no plans to add on, you might be fine with your home’s foundation as is. But if you want to build a second story, you should be sure that the foundation is strong enough to support a major structural change.

Identify your problem areas

How do you know if the foundational areas in your organization need work? Most HR leaders recognize that they should address some flaws in their foundation, but many aren’t sure where to start. Asking these questions can help.

1. Is your data a help or a hindrance to your HR strategy?

  • Is your data accurate and up to date? You can’t build a successful operation using bad data, bad hierarchies and bad structures. You need valid, complete data sets for both organizational and employee data, as well as a system that enables this data to be easily updated, shared and used in real time. In addition, you need employees with the right skills to glean insights from this data to help guide decisions.

  • Is company data easily accessible by those who need it—and protected from those who don’t? Data that’s inaccessible or tough to find can slow decision-making and create inefficiencies. At the same time, security and privacy are top priorities when you’re dealing with confidential employee and organizational information. It’s also important to have effective data strategies, such as master data management.

2. Are governance and processes solid or cracked?

  • Are the various departments in your company using harmonized technologies and processes, including recruiting and onboarding, as well as benefits and payroll? Systems that aren’t properly connected can leave gaps in processes and information, resulting in a subpar user experience.

  • Is it time to review your established governance policies? Consider whether your governance allows sufficient agility to help keep up with business changes. It’s also important to review how you’re communicating with employees, the community and other stakeholders. Are you being clear, consistent and transparent?

  • Are your HR processes effective, productive and adding value? If not, avoid responding with, “But this is the way we’ve always done things.” Instead, say, “We’ve got to fix this—now!”

3. Most HR processes revolve around jobs. Have you invested enough in your architecture?

  • Are your company’s titles, roles and careers meaningful? Many organizations can struggle to create a clear, coherent job architecture that supports the business direction. A poorly designed architecture can stymie talent processes and lead to confusion among employees over responsibilities or criteria for career progression. Develop titles, jobs and job families that not only support your processes with limited administrative upkeep but also help employees more easily understand what their career opportunities are.

  • Are the skills and knowledge required for each job relevant and up to date? With technology changing so quickly and competition for new talent becoming tighter, it’s critical to know what skills your employees have—and what they may need to learn in order to support business goals. It’s also important to identify skill-set gaps and provide upskilling opportunities. Have you made the most of your HCM’s ability to track the skills your employees have and provide updates as they develop new skills?

Inspect the foundation

Once you’ve evaluated these high-level foundational issues, assess HR’s core functions: payroll processes, benefits, succession planning, recruiting practices and onboarding efforts. Look for outdated or clunky processes or policies, as well as situations in which technology solutions, such as business-driven analytics, might make something more efficient. You should also weigh the pros and cons of keeping HR functions like payroll and benefits in-house versus outsourcing them.

For example, many companies are rolling out a wider variety of benefits—including student loan debt paydowns, childcare benefits and commuter credits—to help attract new talent and meet the diverse needs of their current employees. Is it time to consider revamping your organization’s benefits package? Is your benefits system scalable and easily adaptable to new offerings that could help your company be more competitive? Consider, too, how employees access their benefits. Can they easily make updates, enroll in programs and access information?

Another area for consideration is your learning and development program. Many employees are eager to upskill, and a third say better-than-average training and development opportunities are differentiators for them in choosing where to work. How does your learning and development program rate?

Consider whether your employees may need new options to learn on the job, such as through job shadowing or secondments. Consider, too, how you’re delivering e-learning. Are you using a cloud-based learning management system to house, deliver and track e-learning in one place? Can employees access content from mobile devices so they can learn at a time and place that’s convenient for them?

Looking ahead

It may be tempting to charge right into your transformation plans without pausing to assess your foundation. But it’s well worth taking the time to nail down HR’s core functions.

By making your current processes and systems as efficient, streamlined and user-friendly as possible, you’ll build trust with your employees and all business leaders. What’s more, you’ll be able to build a strong foundation—one on which you can securely build a top-quality, ready-for-the-future HR organization.

Contact us

Scott Pollak

Scott Pollak

Principal, HR Transformation, PwC US

Diane Youden

Diane Youden

Principal, Workforce Transformation, PwC US

Lisa Fleming

Lisa Fleming

Director, Advisory, PwC US

Dominick Paradiso

Dominick Paradiso

Director, Advisory, PwC US

Follow us