Adrian Lewis, director of Activ People HR on how HR technology can get the best from your talent.
Technology has transformed the recruitment industry over the past two decades and will continue to change the way job seekers hunt and apply for new roles as the pace of technological advancement increases. However, behind the scenes, within the recruitment firms themselves, the adoption of technology is somewhat slower, particularly around the HR function. Recent research by employee engagement company, Reward Gateway found that HR professionals are spending 366.6 hours a year manually checking, responding to and keeping up with multiple HR applications, costing time and resources. It also found that integrating new HR tools into current workplace technology is a key priority for 89 per cent of HR professionals, as many struggle with processes that could be automated. As more millennial and Generation Z employees enter the workforce they expect and demand to have technology at their fingertips, but many companies are still reliant on legacy or manual systems. To attract and retain the best talent companies must meet the requirements of a new generation of employees who have grown up with instant access to information.
Supporting employee wellbeing
One area where HR departments have the power to radically change how they work is employee wellbeing. A recent survey identified the recruitment sector as the most stressful working environment with around 83 per cent of consultants claiming to be stressed whilst at work. Long hours that threaten work/life balance and pressure to meet targets are among key triggers for stress within the recruitment industry. New research by recruitment consultancy CSG found one in four recruiters have taken at least one sick day in the past year as a result of a mental health issue, however 59 per cent of recruiters would not feel comfortable asking a manager for time off for mental health issues. By using technology to track absence, employers can identify when people are taking regular days off sick, or more days off than usual which could be a sign of an underlying issue going unnoticed and unchecked. Absence management software highlights recurring trends and patterns providing a clear insight for employers. It also prompts line managers to follow a ‘return to work’ process when someone has been off sick. Conducting a return to work interview is vitally important as it gives managers the chance to proactively check the health and wellbeing of staff and understand the reason for absence. Kalina Suchenia, operations manager of Avanti Recruitment says: “There is still a lot of stigma around mental health, particularly in the recruitment sector. However, creating an open culture within the organisation where people feel they can talk honestly about it can help to tackle this. “We implemented cloud-based absence management software Activ Absence to streamline our absence management process and keep better track of annual leave,” Suchenia continues. “Previously we used a paper-based process which was time consuming, inaccurate and inefficient. Now we have much better visibility not only when individuals are off sick but also when they want to take annual leave. “Each employee has access to Activ Absence which allows them to request holiday as well as check whether other employees within the same team are already off. This is extremely important as in recruitment it’s essential to make sure the right individuals are available to cover work. As a management team we use the Bradford Factor built into the software to monitor sickness patterns and make sure that everyone is taking their full holiday allowance which is important when working in a high pressurised environment like recruitment.” Kalina says return to work interviews are an important part of the process. She adds: “The absence management solution prompts managers to conduct a return to work interview when someone has been off sick for a longer period of time. This is useful for understanding the reason for the absence and to make sure that person is well enough to return to work. The conversation also gives the manager an opportunity to offer any appropriate support to the employee.” HR technology can enable companies to be strategic in the support they offer their employees. In recent years there has been a big push for organisations to implement wellbeing programmes, however, it’s important that these are meaningful and not just tick box exercises. Companies should be using absence management software to track and measure sickness absence. Only by capturing and analysing this data can organisations see what issues are affecting their workforce and put together a targeted wellbeing strategy that addresses these issues. By using data to their advantage organisations can put initiatives in place that will have the biggest positive impact on employee wellbeing – anything else is just guesswork.
Meeting the demand for flexible working
Flexible working is another consideration for companies keen to attract new talent. According to research from recruitment agency Capability Jane, 92 per cent of millennials identify flexibility as a top priority when job hunting. Flexible working can also boost productivity levels, a new survey from IT services provider 99&One found two thirds (66 per cent) of workers say they are more productive when they work flexibly. However, flexible working can only work successfully if employees can access their business and people systems remotely and this means employers enabling the right technology and processes that support this. Again, younger workers are driving the demand for organisations to provide online, on demand technology. Working for an organisation where data is stored in silos and not readily available, or where they can’t work on their commute to work from their phone or from home is not an attractive proposition. Before implementing a flexible working policy, organisations need to implement a digital framework to make it logistically possible. Flexible working can mean many different things from flexi-time to working from home, however changing traditional working patterns can be challenging. The key is having the right IT systems in place so the business doesn’t suffer. Absence management tools provide visibility of where staff are during the working day. For example, if someone is not at their desk their colleagues can keep track through the system of whether they’re off sick, working at home or on holiday to ensure it is business as usual at all times.
Enhancing performance management
Career development is another major draw for top talent and organisations are increasingly moving away from the tired annual appraisal format and implementing more meaningful processes. Annual performance appraisals often become laborious, paper chasing exercises which offer little benefit either to the employee or the business. More of our clients say they are engaging more regularly with employees, for example in monthly one-to-one meetings which give a clearer understanding of how employees are progressing and any support they may require. This approach is particularly favoured by younger workers. Research by EY found that almost all Generation Z (97 per cent) is receptive to receiving feedback on an ongoing basis or after completing a large project or task, and 63 per cent prefer to receive timely constructive feedback throughout the year. HR technology like Activ Appraisals can support this process and allow more focussed feedback and facilitate conversations between managers and their staff. Meeting outcomes and actions can be recorded securely in real time and templates can prompt managers with key questions to ask and ensure they don’t forget what has been agreed previously ensuring greater transparency around performance management. Many employers are starting to recognise the potential that HR technology solutions have to deliver tangible business benefits – both in terms of streamlining HR processes, saving time and money spent on administration, but also in improving the working environment, which can help companies retain and engage employees.