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The busy manager's guide to modern HR

Callum Sharp
Written by Callum Sharp

Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. How and why you should automate HR processes
  3. The step-by-step guide to more time
  4. The seven must-have tools for HR managers who like things simple
  5. 19 must-read blogs for the modern HR manager 

Introduction

Illustration of human resources manager at a busy desk

HR and the way we manage people is changing. With digital disruptions, cultural shifts, and employees now expecting more from their working lives, managers are asking themselves:

  • Are people really being productive with their time, or are they slacking off?
  • How do we actually 'do’ HR? Should we look at getting new tech?
  • Aren’t robots going to steal everyone’s jobs anyway?

If you’re feeling lost and confused, take some reassuring words from The Office’s Michael Scott:

‘People will never be replaced by machines. And in the end, life and business are about human connections. And computers are about trying to murder you in a lake.'

How and why you should automate HR processes

Employees working in a disjointed office environment, illustrating the need for modern HR processes

If he could only rescue one department from a burning office building, Bruce Philip, author and ING Direct brand adviser, would save human resources.

Why? Philip believes that HR is critical to the success of a business. Properly empowered, HR can become a ‘strategic partner’ to senior leadership with ‘both a mandate and accountability.’ 

It goes without saying that a well-resourced HR department is an asset to an organisation, but it’s a luxury that few small businesses can afford to have - literally.

It is possible to automate HR processes without needing a whole team of people and a suite of expensive specialist software, though. Administrative processes in particular, like timesheet tracking and onboarding, are ripe for automation. And here’s why it’s worth doing:

  • Automation reduces the risk of lost or mishandled information. 
  • It streamlines day-to-day processes (so you spend less time on admin).
  • It empowers your employees, and therefore makes their lives easier.
  • You'll improve transparency and accessibility across your organisation.

So, if you need to improve your people management but don’t know how or where to start, try automating these five processes:

1. Recruitment

Recruiting is a long, administratively-intensive process. Posting role descriptions, collecting and reviewing applications, conducting interviews, vetting candidates - it’s enough to keep your team occupied for weeks.

You can automate your hiring process using tools like Laserfiche Forms to:

  • Ensure consistency, quality and legibility of applications.
  • Streamline application reviews. 
  • Automatically schedule interviews, follow-up emails and other tasks.
  • Seamlessly post and share role descriptions to job sites and social channels.

Above all, automating your hiring processes will help you accelerate your recruitment timelines and deliver a better experience for candidates.

Further, you’ll be able to better manage access to sensitive information about your business and potential hires, improving your security standard overall.

2. Onboarding & offboarding

You can also automate onboarding, too. There are tools that generate and distribute your employment contracts, and document management software (such as Bullhorn Onboarding) to cut the amount of paperwork for a new hire.

And, of course, if you can automate your onboarding processes, you can automate your offboarding processes, too. These are the administrative tasks that need doing when an employee leaves your company and can include things like exit surveys and payslip summaries.

3. Timesheet tracking

Timesheets are the bane of some people’s existence, and rightly so. They’re often inaccurate, highly political and don’t act as a good incentive for improving individual productivity.

But for many employees, managers and HR departments, timesheets remain a ghastly reality. Fortunately, tools like Toggl eliminate much of the pain caused by timesheet tracking.

Toggl’s one-click time tracking feature lets staff capture their billable hours, providing managers with more visibility into their day. Entries sync in real-time, and Toggl’s dashboard and reporting tools make people management as easy as downloading a file. It’s simple, automated and most of all fast. 

4. Expenses and leave requests

Day-to-day HR functions, like leave requests, are a lot simpler (and therefore less time-consuming) with the right tools and automation software.

Using a self-service program, like Turbine, lets your employees easily request time off, update their contact details, record expenses and manage purchase orders from their smartphone or online. And, instead of wrangling with complicated paperwork and fistfuls of receipts, managers can quickly approve requests and see information about an employee in one central place. No more following up on paperwork and no missed requests! Hurrah!

5. Employee engagement

Automating those old-fashioned employee satisfaction surveys can save you time, boost employee satisfaction and, in addition, yield better insights.

There’s a range of tools and applications you can use to automatically ‘measure’ happiness and job satisfaction, often in real-time. Choices abound here: you can go for a popular option like Culture Amp, or use something a little more Agile like a Niko-niko calendar, which tracks your team’s mood with smileys.

Knowing how your employees feel about their workplace and their role is important for retention. By automating feedback mechanisms, you’ll make it easier for your employees to express their feelings and therefore voice their concerns.

Further, you won’t find yourself building cumbersome surveys. It’s quite easy to automate HR processes, and it’s worth considering if you haven’t got a big HR team.

The step-by-step guide to more time

A collection of watches and clock illustrations, suggesting ways for HR teams to find more time

To help you get to grips with roles and responsibilities, new technology and avoid classic pitfalls, here is the busy manager's guide to modern HR. 

1. It’s not about a department, it’s about fostering a culture

It doesn't matter if you can't afford a proper in-house department, because HR isn't about that anymore – it's about fostering a collegial company culture and encouraging social collaboration.

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Lead with the company vision, get employees invested in your goals and sustain business-wide communication. The best way to do this is to adopt a truly open-door policy, use social media apps and avoid too much hierarchy and bureaucracy.

2. It’s about time! Purge that paperwork and reduce your manual loads

Did you know that managers spend 15 hours a week on manual admin processes? Holiday spreadsheets, expenses forms, and dreaded time sheets are killing front-line employee engagement, too.

Modern HR is savvier with its time. It automates processes, gets self-service software and has a company intranet for policies and documents. Good HR software is cheap, easy to set up, and means everyone can upload and share digital documents to one single platform quickly. 

3. It’s asking the right questions around productivity

After you've burned the time sheets, what do you replace them with? Productivity management isn't easy, sure, but there are better ways to do it. And it starts with asking your team what they want.

  • How does your team like to track their hours?
  • Would they like to use an app?
  • Do your employees have everything they need?
  • What would really make them more productive?

Acting on feedback from your team around how they can produce their best work is key in modern HR. But even the fact that management cares enough to ask in the first place will increase productivity in itself - this is called the Hawthorne effect. 

4. It’s taking happiness seriously

If 'happiness' sounds too soft for your skills, you need to re-assess. Productivity doesn’t come without employee engagement. And this doesn't come without genuine happiness.

Automating mindless manual tasks will help, but you'll need to do more to boost morale. Managers should think about: 

  • Being aware of employee frustrations and doing your best to resolve them.
  • Recognising achievements – even the small ones.
  • Trusting your employees to do their job – don't micromanage!

Taking happiness and employee wellbeing seriously will reduce things like absences and errors in work, so your ROI sees a boost too. Cheerful is cheap in the long-run, and negativity is really expensive.

5. It’s rethinking environment and encouraging better balance

We spend most of our lives at work, so we need to do more thinking around our lives at work. To boost happiness and to combat the overwhelmed employees, consider:

  • Letting people work how and where they feel most comfortable is important. This can be anywhere between letting people decorate their desk, to wearing earphones to minimise distractions, to working from home a few days a week or full-time.
  • Working hours. Flexible working hours and not being stuck in the rigid 9-5 pattern is proven to make people more productive. 
  • Time off.Letting people book their own holidays and manage their own time is crucial for functional HR in the modern world.

Whether you're taking the plunge and going fully remote, or simply giving employees more choice in the office, freedom and flexibility are the cornerstones of modern HR.

6. It’s smarter hiring and minimal firing

Today, we talk about the 'consumerisation of HR', so you need to think about recruitment like marketing. As such, many marketers visualise their ideal customers and work off that to attract and retain them – you need to do the same for job descriptions and interview processes.

Done right, and not forgetting diversity, this means you're likely to attract the right people, and won't find yourself making bad hiring decisions. Remember, recruitment and retention should mean the same thing.

7. It’s all about ‘talent management’

Employees today, especially millennials, have no problem with quitting if they aren't making progress or if they're not treated as equals. This is where managers are often short sighted – they sweat to hire top talent, then subject them to boring repetitive tasks and chain-of-command hierarchy. To retain the bright sparks, you need to:

  • Motivate through autonomy and let people take control of their own learning. We like the 70-20-10 rule. 
  • Train them effectively, which means understanding different personalities and tailoring career paths to the individual.
  • Think beyond the pay rise and about deeper incentives your employees will really go after.

'Talent management' is a buzzword. But it's not about playing Hollywood – your employees (probably) aren’t demanding divas, and your job isn't that cool. But you do have to be a bit cool. How? By actually caring about personal and professional development. And that means getting on their level.

8. It's understanding and listening to your employees

The only way people are ever going to be invested in the business and their work is if you know how to communicate with them. Ditch the appraisals. Give good two-way feedback, and have a human conversation. It's all about communicating with people continuously.

At Turbine, we have monthly 1-1s and use apps like Slack and Know Your Company to open up different lines of communication. People are a piece of cake to manage if you can build a culture of trust. Be on your employees' side and they'll be on yours.

9. It's data-driven and big on analytics

Just under three-quarters of companies see analytics as a main priority for HR this year, according to Deloitte's human capital report. Software that automatically logs and categorises information in one central place means you can populate and analyse data easily.

Depending on what you’re measuring, this could include anything from periods of time off, people’s contributions to projects or happiness levels at work.

10. Modern HR is just humans using their resources

Modern HR is about embracing new ways of working, new management styles and new technology to help us work more collaboratively. Companies should be really thinking about how people can be happier, more productive and better colleagues all round.

We all have limited amounts of time, brainpower, willpower and patience. To be a successful team of humans at work, we need to put our heads together and come up with better ways to manage and utilise our own resources.

 

The seven must-have tools for HR managers who like things simple

Illustration of arrows and processes to create a productive HR team

Recruiting, retaining and engaging talent is a tough gig: you're not just supporting your colleagues; you're building and managing a more effective workforce. But the right tools for HR can give you the upper hand.

Picking the right tools for HR

Don't be dazzled by products that are all bells and whistles and razzmatazz. Look for smart, simple technology that's easy to use and that actually delivers tangible results. 

Read some case studies and independent reviews and experiment a bit. Maybe pick a few people or a team in your business to trial the software and get their feedback. But always be asking 'How does this benefit us? How will it make us more productive?' – if you can't answer, don't use the product.

These are seven of the best tools for HR managers looking to make their job that little bit easier.

Recruitment – Workable and Elance

Workable flies in the face of complex, enterprise-level recruiting tools and ad-hoc spreadsheets. It's simple, powerful and easy to use.

Workable streamlines your entire recruiting process – from career pages and job board syndication to analytics and social recruiting – meaning that everything's in one place so you can easily see which stage each candidate has reached and share this information with your colleagues.

The analytics allow you, for example, to establish where you're sourcing your best candidates so you can focus and hone your recruiting strategy.

It also has a drag-and-drop resume upload feature, so you don't have cover your desk and stuff your filing cabinet with paper CVs. 

And, with a flexible pricing structure, you can find a plan that works for you.

If you're looking for the ability to scale up and down with ease, use Elance. It lets you search for freelancers who have the skills you're looking for and hire them for short-term projects, meaning you can quickly build a team for less. 

Incentives – AnyPerk

When it comes to praising your staff, sometimes a bonus and a pat on the back aren't enough, particularly for knowledge workers.

AnyPerk provides your employees with high-quality perks – everything from childcare savings to shopping discounts and travel offers – to give them a lift and keep them motivated, and it helps you attract and retain talent.

File storage – TurboScan and Dropbox

With HR comes paperwork, and it helps having all of it in the same place.

Use an iPhone document scanner app like TurboScan, or one of the many others, to convert your paper files into PDF or JPEG files and then store them in the cloud with an app like Dropbox. This gives you a searchable archive of your filesso you can quickly find what you need and share it with your colleagues.

Social – Hall

As an HR manager, you also have responsibility for nurturing the right sort of company culture, a big part of which means encouraging conversation and collaboration across the business, particularly for remote teams. But that's easier said than done.

Download the human resources cheat sheet here

Offering real-time chat, video chat and file sharing, Hall both recreates the water cooler moments of the office and provides an intuitive platform for effective collaboration. You and your colleagues can use it to chat, share documents and stay in the loop, anytime, anywhere.

People management – Turbine

Increasingly mobile teams also bring a new challenge to people management. How do you keep track of schedules, expenses, and employees' personal information when your team is working here, there and everywhere?

Turbine gives you and your colleagues a simpler way to manage time off, purchase orders, expense claims and employee records. Everything's online and in one place – so you'll never miss Sally's birthday again – and, with self-service functionality, employees can update their own information and manage their own time off, purchases and expenses, wherever they are.

It makes your HR paperwork a little less tedious.

Tools for HR that work for you

Ultimately, of course, you need to find the tools that work for you and your company. 

It's not about having a tool for every single eventuality, but about finding user-friendly software that can streamline your processes. 

Our advice? Establish your needs and keep experimenting to see what fits.

19 must-read blogs for the modern HR manager

Illustration of employee sitting at a laptop, depicting human resource blog research

We’ve sifted through the internet to find the best blogs for the modern HR manager. These organisations and individuals talk about HR basics, consider relevant trends and address how technology is changing human resources.

Here goes… 

1.     TLNT: The Business of HR

The site is edited by John Hollon and described as the fastest growing HR site. They post multiple articles daily from various contributors and have an entire section devoted to HR Tech.

2.    Steve Boese’s HR Technology

Steve Boese is well-known for his humour and barbecue obsession and has been blogging about HR since 2008. He is also part of a regular podcast called HR Happy Hour

3.    Fistful of Talent

Writer Kris Dunn is well-known in the HR world and this blog boasts a host of contributors. They pledge savvy HR snark about relevant and intriguing topics.

4.    Talent Culture

Meghan Biro is a consultant who addresses how technology and talent management work together in both large and small companies.

5.    HR Examiner

This online magazine focuses on senior HR members, careers and ideas. They delve deeper into topics like workforce analytics, data and changes in HR.

6.    Stratify

This blog is focused on the issue of staying relevant as the workplace changes. The company behind the content focuses on talent management assistance and social media training.

7.    HRE Online

Human Resource Executive started as a magazine in 1987. It has a wide readership and is a prime example of the changes HR has gone through.

8.    The HR Capitalist

The HR Capitalist is another Kris Dunn blog which discusses more technical HR topics. The blog has been active since 2006 and Dunn focuses on ‘HR practice, technology and business results.’

9. Life between the Brackets

Lance Haun previously wrote Rehaul and YourHRGuy.com and still contributes to sites like TLNT, but you can find his writings on software, the cloud and other HR topics here.

10.   Omega HR Solutions

Mark Haberman has years of experience in the HR profession and teaches HR as a university professor. He addresses basic HR issues, new trends and HR technology.

11. Upstart HR

This blog focuses on the HR professional’s personal development and HR craft. The author Ben Eubanks also offers book reviews and free eBooks for added resources.

12. Human Capitalist

The main goal of Human Capitalist is to address the intersection of people and tech in the workplace. Topics include people management, recruitment and discussion on the future of HR. 

13.  Top HR Blog

The blog has a wide readership and tends to address more general HR topics, but the content is smart and useful.  The site posts frequently and is active on Twitter with links to relevant content. 

14. HR Tech Europe

HR Tech Europe hosts an annual conference and the blog provides pre and post event content with thoughts on HR trends and discussions. It’s a way to keep up with the event and the people who attend.

15. HR Blogger

If you just want to see a roll call of the most recent HR blogs from around the web, HR Blogger gives you exactly that. They collect posts from many different sites and you can grab the topics that interest you.

16.  ERE.net

This blog is focused on recruitment and addresses how technology and social media are changing the way companies market themselves to potential employees.

17. Undercover Recruiter

Undercover recruiter covers social media and technology with a good perspective on traditional HR and how new tech plays into it. Just know that they are big fans of infographics. 

18. SHRM online

The Society for Human Resource Management offers a plethora of HR topics that include technology, law and the business of HR. You don't have to be a member to benefit from the resource.

19. Turbine

We love writing about HR and are especially interested in the way the cloud and other technology is changing the workplace, and how it affects both HR managers and employees.

Human resources is an ever-changing role and all of these sources strive to stay ahead of the trends, discuss relevant topics and questions and share their experiences, so you can be ready for what’s happening now and next in HR.

Download our human resources cheat sheet here

Employees , human resources , Communication , People management