Human resources needs to take the lead in creating and encouraging a culture of collaboration and a cohesive team, particularly with an increasingly mobile and distributed workforce. It shouldn't be defined by admin and red tape.

Sure, getting the management side right and driving efficiency in the workplace are certainly important, but they're not the be-all and end-all of human resources. What about the human side of HR? Human human resources, so to speak.

HR should be about making everyone's working lives a little bit simpler, better and happier.

All together now

First, it helps having all of your HR documentation and employee information in one place.

Stashing it all away in filing cabinets means that every time you need to look something up regarding a particular employee, you'll need to rifle through your files. But storing the information in a simple, online system allows you to quickly search what you're looking for, giving you an overview of your team and helping you with resource planning.

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And with a self-service system, employees can update their own details as they change, ensuring that all of your employee information is up to date.

An easily accessible hub of information – contact details, job description, location, team, certificates, etc – works alongside the tools we've written about previously to give you and your employees not only a more collaborative working environment, but also a step in the right direction in fostering a sound company culture.

Putting the 'human' back in human resources

Having all of your employee information in one place also lets you perform the softer duties of HR and helps you develop your employees more intelligently.

  • Birthdays. With each employee's birthday on your centralised system, you can easily plan a little something for each person's birthday together with your colleagues. You might make a card, bake a cake, let them have a day off, buy them theatre tickets, treat them to lunch, get them a year's subscription to a mail-order chocolate tasting club... It doesn't have to break the bank, but doing something small to recognise someone's birthday can make all the difference.
  • Training. Making a note of training courses each employee has completed not only allows you to track the development and skills of your employees, but also gives you the opportunity to follow up on that training. Asking questions when they've completed the training – what did you learn from it? Did you enjoy it? How would you improve it? – helps it stick and demonstrates your commitment to continuous learning.
  • Interests. Building on both of these, you might also encourage employees to put some of their major interests and achievements, both in-work and out-of-work, on the system. Maybe Mary's learning Japanese, and perhaps Mark's got an NVQ in sports massage; whatever it is, it reminds you that you're working with unique individuals, not economic units. You might use this information to guide their future development and training or use it as inspiration for their next birthday present – perhaps a sushi making lesson for Mary.

Balancing hard with soft

Of course, human resources is not just about the soft side of things; like any other senior management position, the HR manager needs to focus on the bottom line. But getting all of your information in order and focussing on the human side of human resources and the little things, like birthdays and personal interests, can make a big difference too.

The soft, non-linear side of human resources helps boost performance by treating people like people, encouraging their personal and professional development and trying to make their day-to-day working life a little friendlier and more human.

Download our human resources cheat sheet here