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Understanding the 6 key functions of Human Resources

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Human resource (HR) professionals get a bad rap. Employees often interact with them during times of high stress and frustration, whether it’s trying to move a paid time off request along, handling an insurance issue, or even receiving news about layoffs or firings. At some organizations, team members view HR personnel as little more than water carriers for management, reflecting a lack of trust in their HR functions and in the organization as a whole.

It doesn’t have to be like this, though. At their best, human resources departments can help a company and its employees thrive, acting as trusted advisors who play a critical role in building an incredible organizational culture. HR professionals should serve as the bridge between leaders and staff, establishing collaborative, mutually beneficial relationships throughout the enterprise.

To achieve this ideal, HR needs to go beyond the basics, like handling administrative tasks and organizational planning, to excel at each of its 6 core HR functions. By focusing on the key practices below, HR can be a major contributor to both organizational success and a positive employee experience.

Employee Engagement and Retention Report 2022

1. Attract, recruit, and retain the right talent

Bringing in individuals with the skills, experience, and mindset your organization needs — and keeping them at your company over the long haul — is perhaps HR’s most important responsibility. This involves identifying the kinds of employees your organization needs now and in the future to perform well and meet its goals, then developing accurate, understandable job descriptions for positions that meet current and anticipated demand. HR is also responsible for handling the interview process and creating an onboarding system that sets new employees up for success through their first year and beyond.

Attracting and retaining the talent your organization is looking for takes much more than a well-written job description and well-crafted recruitment process, though. It requires a first-class employer value proposition (EVP), one that includes competitive compensation, benefits employees want, and a reputation for prioritizing wellness, culture, and employee growth. With an attractive EVP and employer brand, both current and prospective employees are more likely to decide there’s nowhere else they’d rather be.

Last but not least, HR should carefully evaluate cultural fit during the hiring process. Does the candidate align with your organization’s company values and its vision for the future? Or do they seem like they’d be more at home at a company with a different type of organizational culture? Bringing in employees who check the right boxes but don’t fit with the culture your company is trying to build will likely lead to mutual frustration and increased turnover.

2. Engage employees with rewards and recognition

Employee engagement is a reflection of how much employees’ work interests and motivates them. There are many drivers of engagement, but none have a greater impact than employee recognition. Employees yearn to feel genuinely appreciated for their hard work, and HR professionals should lead their organization on its journey towards a true culture of recognition.

They can start by researching the components of great recognition programs, from points-based reward systems to employee recognition tools that let employees at all levels show appreciation anywhere, anytime. HR should then educate leaders and other stakeholders across the company on why pursuing recognition and reward initiatives makes sense, armed with compelling statistics. With their support, HR professionals can adopt an employee recognition platform to serve as the foundation of their company’s recognition initiatives. Finally, they should track relevant statistics when implementing the program, adjusting it as needed to get the most out of the organization’s budget.

3. Manage employee performance

Performance management is one of the most important tasks that fall under HR’s umbrella. But it doesn’t have to be a series of dry, impersonal assessments that leave employees feeling frustrated rather than empowered. Performance management should instead focus on giving employees all the resources and support they need to succeed while simultaneously helping them further develop the competencies their role requires.

HR professionals must work closely with managers to develop ongoing, coaching-based performance plans for employees. The last thing employees want is a lengthy list of areas where they can improve, a few perfunctory kudos as part of a self-defeating “compliment sandwich,” and a pat on the back as they’re sent on their way.

Instead, demonstrate a real appreciation for the employee’s successes and strengths by calling out specific moments and wins, like times they helped out a teammate, impressed a client, or made a big contribution to project success. Collaboratively develop a plan that is focused on empowering them with the support and guidance they need to grow. And enable two-way feedback and performance evaluations between staff and leaders as well, so managers can grow along with their direct reports, and team members know they’re not the only ones whose performance is being evaluated.

4. Address professional development and succession planning

HR professionals are responsible for developing all the talent your company has worked so hard to recruit. HR should provide opportunities for professional growth while establishing clear paths for every role to advance in their careers. HR also needs to plan for when key employees eventually decide to move on, hopefully after a long, satisfying tenure with your organization.

Talent development begins with identifying skill gaps and addressing them through a variety of practices, like upskilling, reskilling, and cross-skilling. HR should encourage professional development from day one with personalized growth plans based on input from individual employees and their managers, powered by tools like modern learning management systems (LMS).

Organizations without possibilities for advancement won’t keep their skilled employees around for long, though, so it’s just as important for HR to work with leadership to define attractive and achievable routes for career advancement. HR professionals should also touch base with other people leaders to find out which roles at their organization are most critical. They can then build out succession plans backed by rigorous documentation and training processes ready to start up at a moment’s notice.

5. Build trust through communication and inclusivity

A great HR department forms the connective tissue between team members at all levels, contributing to an environment of trust and psychological safety. HR professionals can start by consistently practicing transparent communication about matters big and small. This is a key way to earn employees’ trust — if people leaders are only straightforward when it’s convenient for them, team members will quickly catch on, and regaining their confidence will be an uphill battle. HR should take a leading role by training leaders on why transparency is so important and how to make it a part of their daily work lives.

Fostering inclusivity at work is another key way HR can build trust and a sense of belonging among all employees. Inclusion simply means that employees feel valued, respected, and involved in every aspect of an organization and its culture. HR can support inclusivity by prioritizing diversity in the hiring process, giving every employee the ability to exercise their voice, and working to get leadership behind new policies and best practices that combat discrimination.

6. Improve employee health and wellness

The pandemic brought a renewed and well-deserved focus on employees’ physical and emotional health. HR has a huge role to play here, starting with ensuring health and safety regulations are up to date, communicated, and followed. Beyond the legal consequences, physical safety is an integral part of any healthy work environment.

HR professionals should also implement wellness initiatives that can pay big dividends for both employees and employers. These can include everything from providing employees with flexibility in where and when they work — one of the best ways to combat burnout – to educating team members on the benefits of mindfulness. Organizations can even integrate wellness apps with their employee recognition solutions, so employees are automatically rewarded when they reach personal wellness goals.

Start improving HR functions at your organization today

It’s not realistic to expect HR to start tackling all these issues at once — especially without help. Luckily, there are solutions available that can assist HR departments of any size and budget with delivering on their core responsibilities and developing a world-class employee experience. The Achievers Employee Experience Platform is dedicated to empowering HR professionals with the capabilities they need to excel. With a proven high-usage recognition solution, an integrated and flexible feedback suite, and a wide-ranging list of satisfied customers, Achievers gives HR professionals the ability to better engage employees across the organization.

See how the Achievers Employee Experience Platform can impact your organization with a free demo.

Try The Employee Engagement Software Demo

Profile image of author: Aleksandra Masionis

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