Though the evolution of HR has long been a topic of discussion among HR professionals, most HR departments still haven’t realized their potential to expand beyond administrative duties to more strategic roles. Access recently partnered with the HR Research Institute to survey HR professionals to uncover the issues that keep HR departments from taking a seat at the planning table. We asked five leading HR influencers, from practitioners to analysts, to share their insights on innovation in HR, and here are the key themes we discovered.

1. HR must become a source of talent innovation

The survey found hiring and retaining high-performing employees and boosting employee engagement are the top shared goals for HR departments and their organizations. However, reaching these objectives in today’s tight labor market requires innovative thinking.

“HR must rethink how work is designed and orchestrated, then engage with talent in a way that personalizes their experience while matching [their] needs and wants with the organization’s business goals,” says Stela Lupushor, Chief Reframer at Reframe.Work, Inc.

Upskilling employees for long-term employability is essential to success, Lupushor explains, because upskilling is not only good for the business, but also helps enhance the brand and attract talent.

2. Data provides new insights for HR departments

Data and analytics increasingly drive business success. In the HR department, data and analytics can uncover new insights that improve employee hiring and management practices. These insights can drive tangible value for the business at large, especially if aggressive growth goals are in place.

“Innovative HR teams…study the current trends, are aware of new technologies, and push to discover how these trends and technologies can help HR support the company’s most urgent business issues,” says HR Trend Institute Director Tom Haak. HR’s use of analytics can even improve the business performance of other departments, he adds.

For instance, insights gained from data analytics can be used to increase productivity by utilizing each employee’s full potential. “Becoming more digital and more employee-centric go hand in hand.”

3. The right HR technology stack is key

Today’s HR technology goes far beyond maintaining essential record-keeping data. The right technology can empower the HR department to deliver more business value and build a strong company culture. However, what constitutes the “right” technology will vary depending upon the unique needs of the business, says Robin Schooling, HR + People Strategy Practice Lead at Peridus Group.

For example, a company that prides itself on transparency may want to provide all employees with access to real-time business data or use collaboration tools that allow employees to drive conversations, ask questions and get answers, she says. In order to tailor the HR tech stack to business needs, Schooling notes, “HR leaders must be part of the conversation around the implementation of any work technology that implements employee end-users.”

4. HR departments must go from paper pushers to strategic storytellers

HR’s biggest value to the organization is its ability to deliver employee insights that can advance business goals. But administrative tasks often eat up valuable time that could be devoted to strategic functions. In Access’ survey of HR professionals, 71% said they spend 40% or more of their time on administrative duties.

“HR is generally behind the curve when it comes to automating routine tasks that can free up time to be strategic,” says Tracie Sponenberg, Chief People Officer at The Granite Group. By embracing data and analytics, Sponenberg notes that HR can forecast business problems and suggest strategic solutions. “The more you use data to tell stories, the more you can help your business.”

5. Automation can free up HR’s time for strategic thinking

Nearly six in 10 professionals in the survey say inefficient or manual processes are the largest barrier to achieving HR goals. Automating these low-value, time-consuming tasks can give HR departments more time to focus on driving efficiency, developing talent and engaging with employees, says Doug Hoffer, Chief Human Resources Officer at Access Corp.

“As a profession, HR needs to minimize the amount of manual work we do, so we can focus on helping our companies reach their goals,” contends Hoffer. “Time consumed by administrative and compliance activities can’t be spent on higher-value activities.”

At Access Corp., for example, automating functions, such as application processing, onboarding and audits, means tasks that used to take days now take only minutes. HR service delivery, compliance, analysis and reporting all offer opportunities to save time through automation, Hoffer adds.

As HR departments take on a more strategic role, their ability to innovate has become key to driving innovation throughout the business. The right technology can give HR departments the edge they need to deliver business value, both now and in the future.



For more insights into how HR can drive business innovation, download the new guide, “A New Era of HR Innovation: Experts Reveal Keys to Evolving from Administrators into Changemakers.