Culture, employee experience and how HR is (re)defining them

The Human Resources function is changing. As the talent landscape shifts and millennials come to define the workforce, the traditional tenants of HR are adapting to this generation’s imperatives.

“How HR meets these new experiential and philosophical demands will play a material role in a company’s long-term innovation, trajectory and success,” says Bryan Buck, a partner at ON Partners.

Smart Business spoke with Buck about the changing role of HR and how it shapes hiring efficacy, culture and engagement.

What are the essential functions within HR departments? How has that changed?
Traditional HR functions still play a critical role — compensation and benefits, talent acquisition and management, learning and development, etc. What’s different now is the awareness and emphasis on company culture; defining what a company stands for and shaping the employee experience.

Today’s HR is challenged to create an environment in which the best employees can do their best work and be their best selves, both in and out of the office.

What is HR’s role when it comes to hiring and employee retention?
HR is adopting more of a marketing role; where the employer brand is as important as the products or services provided. More often than not, the perception of brand, culture and experience is shaped before a candidate walks through the door.

There will always be a company willing to pay more. Understanding what matters to your employees beyond compensation and delivering experiences that meet their desires and needs is a company’s best tool when competing for the best talent. It’s important to first know their drivers and passions.

To be clear, it needs to be more than just ‘food truck Fridays’ or ‘unlimited’ vacation days. Perhaps it’s a quarterly stipend where every employee can reimburse general wellness expenses regardless of the benefactor.

Or maybe it’s giving employees seven years to exercise their options once they’ve left the company because unhappy employees who stay only for the equity vest are toxic to your cultural health.

How can companies measure employee engagement and use that information to improve hiring and retention practices?
Companies are using analytics to find and attract the best talent who are also like-minded to their current population. Now more than ever, organizations are seeking purpose-driven top talent, not just those who are coin-operated.

Coin-operated employees are loyal until a better offer comes along. A purpose-driven base has bought in to the company’s culture and vision; being heard, having impact, and making a difference at work, at home and in the community. Attracting the latter requires different assessment tools focused around ongoing understanding and engagement.

These insights can also be used to identify at-risk talent. Leveraging consistent data points to recognize this profile — what groups they sit in, which projects they work on, the type of leader they work for — can help you uncover trends, adapt and keep the best top talent from leaving.

The Holy Grail is to have alignment between your business, culture and people strategies. Doing so creates an environment of higher productivity, greater sense of purpose and increased employee longevity. From micro-touch points to real-time temperature checks, analytics is playing a growing role in all of it. It’s streamlining the science of attraction and engagement, and reducing the probability of a costly bad hire.

What are some key elements of a quality hiring and retention program?
It starts by focusing internally. Companies must first understand their culture and people, and create a meaningful employee value proposition on that foundation. This document should naturally align the business, brand and culture. Then starts the process of identifying the best, right talent, which incorporates a more discerning candidate profile and search strategy.

The best people on paper aren’t always the best fit. That’s where analytics and a strong hiring process come in. It’s critical to know how to assess the skills and personality traits that translate to an effective hire. Build a culture and experience around your existing best talent, and the like-minded will follow.

Insights Executive Search is brought to you by ON Partners