Traditionally, HR professionals have been seen primarily as administrators or compliance experts. In today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, a growing number of organizations are taking a more tactical view of HR and asking their HR departments to expand into strategic functions. This transition offers an exciting opportunity for HR professionals to add real value, deliver return on investment and help their organization reach its business goals. and the HR Research Institute in partnership with Access set out to see how successfully today’s HR departments are transitioning to their new, more strategic role. Their survey, What’s Hindering HR Success in 2019?, found that there is one major stumbling block on the road to transformation from administrator to strategist.

Here’s a closer look at what the survey uncovered—and what’s really holding HR professionals back from reaching their full potential as strategic partners. 

Striving for Shared Strategic Goals

HR professionals who assume strategic, as well as administrative responsibilities, can better support organizational goals and add value to the business. The survey revealed that most HR departments are moving in this direction. A majority of the 338 HR professionals polled believe there is a “high” or “very high” level of alignment between their departmental goals and those of the organization.

Employees are a business’s most valuable assets and HR professionals with a growth mindset cultivate and sustain employees. A strategic approach to HR adds value to the business by enhancing employee recruitment, engagement and retention. Happier employees mean greater productivity, enhanced customer satisfaction and a better bottom line. 

But while organizations can benefit greatly from HR professionals playing a more strategic role, relatively few HR professionals are able to do so. In fact, the majority of HR professionals in the survey say they spend more than 40% of their time on administrative tasks. 

We’ve heard about this evolution of HR for years, so why has it still not become a reality? The survey results reveal that tedious back-office duties, such as paperwork related to employee claims, compliance and reporting issues, still eat up precious time and energy that could be devoted to strategic work. Nearly six in 10 (59%) HR professionals say “too many inefficient or manual processes” is the biggest barrier to achieving both departmental and organizational goals. 

Efficiency has always been a goal for HR departments. Today, that goal is no longer about reduced labor costs, rather it’s an integral part of a business growth plan. The study found that efficient HR teams add value to a business in many ways. For instance, HR departments that display a high level of efficiency are more likely than those in other organizations to:

  • Have goals aligned with the organization as a whole
  • Focus their efforts on recruiting and developing talent
  • Successfully increase employee engagement
  • Be seen as business partners, keepers of the corporate culture and strategists 

When HR departments are highly efficient at administrative tasks, such as compliance and paperwork, HR professionals are better able to focus on more meaningful strategic issues. They tackle complex problems—like building a scalable benefits program that attracts top talent while also addressing the organization’s need to mitigate rising healthcare costs. This approach brings value to the business and transforms HR into a driver of organizational goals. 

The Answer Is Automation

How can HR departments best increase their efficiency so that HR professionals spend less time on administrative duties and more time on strategic thinking? Nearly two-thirds (65%) of survey respondents say that greater automation of workflows to reduce paperwork and improve compliance would be the most useful strategy to enhance administrative efficiency. 

In order to be successful, automation should be approached strategically. Rather than using automation to take over formerly manual tasks, high-performing HR departments implement it as part of an overall plan to streamline and improve their processes. They also take steps to ensure that new technology is successfully integrated with existing solutions for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

When time-consuming manual tasks are reduced or eliminated, HR professionals have more time to think strategically and execute the developed plans. Automation offers the opportunity for every HR department to play a high-value strategic function, helping to achieve both departmental and organizational goals. 

Want to take a quick look at the survey results, and even share them with a colleague? Click here to access the official survey infographic.