5 Ways to Upskill Your HR Department

Peter Byrne

Peter ByrneFounder of ESPHR

Friday, July 19, 2019

In an ideal world, HR managers would spend their time focusing on developing strategy and defining long-term organizational goals, safe in the knowledge that day-to-day operations were ongoing.

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Chances are though, most departments will still be a long way from the slick, well-oiled machine they aspire to be. But there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Whether HR or otherwise, most senior leadership teams and directors are constantly on the lookout for ways to make those who fall within their remit, work better. Often, the solution lies with becoming more streamlined, increasing capability and developing in-house expertise.

Not only will such changes improve the skillset of any team, but from an HR point of view, there could be renewed recognition from key decision-makers within the firm, as well as an improved reputation for the team itself.

Flourishing skills will inevitably generate greater efficiencies, drive a more productive approach to tasks and see the entire department work holistically as they strive to achieve the company goals that really matter.

When looking to get the very best out of any HR team – no matter its size – these five proven ways are a great place to start.

1. Offer formal training opportunities

It may sound like an obvious first step, but professional development is one of the easiest ways to develop team talents.

In the UK, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development is a great place to start, as CIPD qualifications offer the only route to chartered status for HR professionals. In the US meanwhile, the Society for Human Resource Management is also a useful resource.

It’s worth noting, that while these courses will provide a solid foundation of expertise, they’re not the only option when it comes to upskilling a team. There are many more creative and experience-driven strategies to follow, as outlined below.

2. Embrace the legalese

Although it’s not a ‘formal’ way of learning in the sense that staff will walk away with a certification, by allowing – if not encouraging – the HR department to actively seek advice from employment lawyers, particularly around more complex issues such as TUPE, whistle-blowing, harmonization of T&C’s, acquisitions and disposals, etc. will undoubtedly see them absorb new information and insight.

Each time someone seeks legal advice from a third-party, they will bolster their own strengths – often without even really realizing it. As a result, in-house expertise will grow exponentially, leading to an all-round better equipped department.

It’s worth looking closely into working with a partner with employment law expertise which fits the organization. One of which could be a new breed of law firm such as an alternative business structure (ABS), meaning there’s often unlimited legal advice offered on a fixed subscription fee basis.

3. Employ robust HR and ER case management systems

It’s not just humans who influence the reputation of an HR department – an intuitive and reliable system will make a considerable difference to the productivity of the team.

Now’s the time to ask if the current HR admin and ER case management platforms are delivering everything needed – and more? It’s vital to be able to explore data and gain valuable insights in every faucet of the business. If not, it might be time for a more thorough audit and review – exploring whether the software offers real-time reporting and the supplier is offering a truly supportive, personable approach.

Providing simple, clear and continuous access on an HR/ER professional’s own work – as well as that of the department – can prove invaluable when it comes to assessing efficiencies, as well as areas for improvement. By using a system that can establish the amount of time spent on various tasks, alongside the impact each caseload has on long and short-term company goals and growth, there is clarity around ownership, responsibility and, of course, success in employee relations issues and developing an overall workplace culture.

4. It’s good to talk

An HR team shouldn’t operate in silos. Shared knowledge will inevitably lead to a far more productive, intuitive and successful unit, while collaboration – particularly when it comes to problem-solving – can be the difference between success and failure.

One of the easiest ways to get departments to start thinking outside the box is through ongoing communication. By encouraging conversations around internal improvements, reward or remuneration strategies, an engaged group will always be switched on and eager to learn.

5. Walk in someone else’s shoes

It’s HR’s role to be the line between employees and C-suite. By getting hands-on with life in other departments – and understanding what makes individuals tick – the HR department will be better-equipped to understand the nuances throughout the workforce.

Establishing a rapport within all corners of a company will shape the HR function’s reputation into being a force for good – and a driver of positive change – as well as being a source of immense personal development, and providing fuel for new HR initiatives, which directly addresses positive employee engagement.

If met with resistance, explore the values offered by stepping into a colleague’s shoes for the day – this renewed insight will often merit the time taken away from one’s prescribed role.

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