The human resources department is often the unsung hero behind an organization’s success. Since HR is considered an overhead expense, investment in technology and process enhancements for the function often falls by the wayside.

But top-performing companies are taking note of the antiquated operations of HR teams and leveraging new technology and trends. If your HR department needs an upgrade, consider making these lasting improvements.

1. Prioritize Payroll

Employees consider wages one of the most important aspects of a job and if there’s even the slightest hiccup when processing payroll, it could negatively affect productivity or team morale. To avoid any pitfalls, it pays to evaluate your payroll service and see if it’s meeting your current needs. Be sure to consider both your workforce and HR team since what they each need will likely vary. For example, your employees may want a self-serve portal to view pay stubs, while HR department could be looking for more efficient ways to onboard new hires. It pays to look for solutions with both perspectives in mind.

As you research options, create a list of pain points a new provider should resolve. Modern solutions usually offer an all-in-one dashboard that can seamlessly connect with your other systems, such as accounting. Automating tax withholding, integrating accounting, and migrating existing accounts can help your HR team save time. Separately, reporting capabilities can help assess cash flow, review annual labor costs, and prepare for pay-for-performance conversations.

2. Put Policies and Procedures Online

Paper employee handbooks may as well be sent straight to recycling, as many employees eschew paper altogether. Plus, paper forms and outlines of employee expectations easily become outdated, leaving an opening for missed policy updates.

Consider switching to a policy and procedure management tool that keeps your team compliant. Upload employee handbooks, workforce agreements, and other HR-specific documentation to the tool. House forms for leave requests, complaint resolution, and other standard documentation there for easy access across the organization. Maintain a document control history as you overwrite old documents, keeping your team informed with notifications and review requests.

As you roll out new policy documents, run reports to determine which employees still need to review the materials. If necessary, you can set alerts to nudge them toward compliance. Use your new online dashboard to improve new employee onboarding by establishing a baseline policy knowledge among new hires.

3. Reconsider Traditional Recruiting Methods

The constant strain on HR department to post open positions, source candidates, and coordinate the interview process is exhausting. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has taken note of new trends in recruiting driven by the pandemic. Many teams are looking to internal candidates before considering external hires both to capitalize on institutional knowledge and gain speed.

Open up to the idea of recruiting on social media, identifying potential employees on networking sites, and considering nontraditional candidates. The talent you need may be lurking in unexpected places and populations.

Aim to create a fully online experience that fosters candidate engagement from start to finish. Post job descriptions that include the salary range, promotion opportunities, and benefit specifics to encourage applicants to pursue your roles. Gain speed by using talent acquisition software that allows managers to review applications more rapidly. Closing the gap between application and start date can help you win top talent more frequently.

4. Digitize Performance Reviews

Everyone’s least favorite task, performance reviews, drives everyone’s favorite reward: annual salary increases. Ditch the paper forms and fillable PDFs in favor of cloud-based solutions that let employees self-populate their goals and document their achievements. This practice empowers them to make their case for glowing reviews or explain barriers to success. Create alerts to help team members stay on task and on time, reducing the need for individual prodding. Set prompts and run reports on lagging filers to focus efforts where they’re needed.

Using this approach, managers are saved from the unpleasant task of nagging direct reports to fulfill their annual review obligations. Managers regain lost time and can instead focus on providing more analytical reviews rich with feedback and development conversations.

The system will document acknowledgment of reviews received and any improvement or disciplinary plans set out. Both can serve as helpful documentation in the event of missed goals or staffing changes.

5. Streamline Benefits and Enrollment Information

Open enrollment is the “big show” for many HR departments. This yearly event requires education, engagement, and support so employees can make the best benefits choice for them. Since a missed open enrollment can leave employees and their families without basics like insurance, this is an important step to consider.

Work with your communications team to develop enrollment communication materials that suit your workplace. Aim to strike a balance between digital and analog communication, especially if you have staff in the field.

Create a subsite within your intranet that maintains benefit information year-round. Keep links to provider sites, coverage specifics, and plan documents all in one place. Highlight key dates to remember, especially annual enrollment deadlines. Use this space to post health education opportunities, health resources, and dates for in-office wellness exams. Encourage managers to reference the site as a source of truth when fielding questions to reduce confusion and misinformation.

Feedback From Employees Should Influence Your Efforts

Front-office teams don’t always have a great vantage point on the average employee experience. To combat this inadvertent blindness to others’ workplace situations, develop a regular feedback process. This may be done through an employee engagement survey, a web-based feedback mechanism, and/or in-person comments from colleagues. Log the information you gather before, during, and after you make changes to your processes. When you pay attention to the way current and new processes are perceived, and adapt accordingly, your entire organization can thrive.