Why every cloud has a silver lining for today’s HR teams

HR has its head in the clouds. Of course, this conjures images of wistful thinking, while not focusing on the job in hand. However, in this instance, nothing could be further from the truth. HR is getting “smarter”, driven by cloud technology and innovations, enabling things to happen quicker, while adapting to new ways of working.

It is offering businesses the opportunity to - flexibly and cost-effectively - make use of the latest and most appropriate applications that can automate processes, provide detailed analytics and make the most of the Internet of Things. The smartest applications can help deskill dull and repetitive tasks, so that employees are able to do more creative and high-value tasks improving job satisfaction, recognition and career development.

HR to HCM

Despite the benefits, the adoption of cloud technology is far from universal. In many cases, employees have to work with old, cumbersome legacy systems that impede processes and drive inefficiencies. They’re slowed down by silo systems that prevent speedy access to vital data and discourage collaboration or software that make simple tasks onerous. It’s well publicised that the UK is far behind much of the EU in terms of workforce productivity, according to this chart from OECD.org.

Yet there is no reason this should be the case. Cloud is providing a great platform on which consumer-grade, mobile accessible and scalable applications, like HR, can exist. Greater HR capability, combined with cross-product (SAP acquired Multiposting to enable it to deliver job board postings as part of its recruiting solution) and inter-platform interaction (think of using LinkedIn to search then initiate a job application) means that a wider range of HR information is available. Organisations are now going beyond just “paying” people to better manage their talent; we’re seeing a cloud-driven shift from HR to Human Capital Management.

Death of the spreadsheet

Then, of course, there are the employees to consider. We all have a different relationship with work which is changing across almost every industry. We travel more, work flexitime, home work and job share all the pursuit of an acceptable work life balance. Part time work accounted for 8.4m people in the UK in 2017. Now more than ever, the ease of access to tools to do our job is important.

Although the concept of remote working is a perceived challenge for managers, this need not be the case. The cloud delivers a resilient platform that drives mobility and connectivity, regardless of location and physical hardware. Cloud computing delivers ‘borderless environments’, providing employees a seamless experience and reliable connectivity wherever they happen to be. It allows organisations to deliver IT at scale, so as businesses continue to grow and increase the size of their teams, each employee benefits from access to the same tools, platforms and information. In the process, staff are better supported with technologies that improve collaboration and communication. This not only helps to create an efficient workforce, it can improve morale and make for more engaged employees, while simultaneously killing off the Excel spreadsheet. Talk about every cloud having a silver lining.

Inform or perform

The end result is that more data is available. Used in the right way, and noting GDPR, this information can be harnessed to provide a better experience for employee, manager and executives alike as well as putting analytics in the hands of decision makers. This data can tell a multitude of stories and is able to be tailored, changed and adapted to country, region or person. It can inform promotions - when, where, how, why and who - as well as instruct which divisions or business units in need of help. Look hard enough and the answer is there. Seek and ye shall find.

In spite of this, we’re still seeing specific HR functional areas with reporting dashboards - mostly for operational reasons and not performing or informing anywhere near their potential. It’s like having an F1 car you don't take out of first gear. Of course, cloud systems have APIs to make this data accessible, subject to right security permissions.

Analytics: when two worlds collide

Good analytics is when two worlds collide; there needs to be good quality data and well-defined insight objectives (so you have a clear understanding of what you want to know). If done correctly, the C-suite is then able to utilise this information in the context of other business data like sales revenue per department, terminations of high performers across geographies/departments, high performer pay vs pay scale external market data metrics.

With the cloud, HR managers have a unique opportunity to create a level playing field – regardless of office location or employee type. From performance metrics that apply to all, to structured training and salary schemes, cloud-based HR software enables every aspect of employee management to be centralised. Establishing universal benchmarks ensures that everyone is working within the same framework – a crucial step towards building a cohesive, collaborative culture. With cloud-based solutions, HR managers can turn company goals and values into trackable, actionable metrics whilst creating a more collaborative environment for all.

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