How to get started with process optimisation for HR

Amy Owens

Written By Rob Williams, Business Development Director, AdviserPlus.

23rd October 2019

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Modernising your organisation’s ER processes can be highly complex – but it’s vital for the long-term success and value of HR.

Business process optimisation (BPO) has become one of the most common modernisation efforts across all functions, throughout all organisations, in every industry – particularly as technology advances, increasing the simplicity, accessibility and intuition of even more processes. However, for some functions, BPO can be a more complex prospect than simply plugging in a new system to automate activity.

Take case management, for example. It’s a crucial aspect of HR service delivery that would benefit hugely from BPO initiatives – but it’s also an area that carries a lot of risk if leaders don’t make well-considered decisions about how to balance efficiency and assurance.

Before you make any choices about how you approach optimisation, it’s vital you understand the processes you already have in place; the volume and profile of activities, touchpoints, complexity and cost.

The very real risks of getting Employee Relations wrong

Good employee relations (ER) is the core of a successful organisation – and it’s one thing you truly cannot afford to get wrong.

The impact of bad ER is pervasive. It can result in ineffective management of employee situations, disengaged staff, and affects the level of service you end up delivering to your customers. And that’s just the practical impact on everyday operation – nothing can damage a business quite like a spate of negative PR, and high-profile lapses in HR process can have irreparable effects on an organisation’s reputation.

Just one negative HR event – like a controversial case going to tribunal – can undermine confidence throughout the organisation, right down to an individual investor level. Combine that with the risk of damaging public perception if it reaches the news, and it’s easy to understand why ensuring your ER processes are as robust as possible is so important.

The need for BPO in HR

It’s a corner of the business that can be fraught with risk. You want to ensure that your strategic initiatives are embracing digitalisation, increasing efficiency, continuing to provide an excellent front line service and ensuring the organisation’s employees are protected and policy upheld.

The other major challenge is that HR’s increasingly strategic role in business has led to a divided focus for many organisations. Leaders need to prioritise the high impact projects that support overall profit growth, such as organisation design, talent acquisition and change, but without compromising the essential aspects of ER, like absence management and policy enforcement.

It’s a difficult balance – greater efficiencies are often achievable because of an awareness of risk in changing something that isn’t broken and that’s what makes ER a prime place for intelligent BPO initiatives.

Your business case for BPO

As we mentioned above, process optimisation in HR often won’t be a case of simply choosing a new technology and deploying it. Of course, you can use an automated ticketing system for ER support requests from managers, just like an IT function uses for tech support – but it won’t always be an ideal fit.

Systems need to be intuitive and engaging, providing information at source that helps line managers make decisions and take actions on low risk, low complexity cases as well as capturing information that might be needed should the case escalate and need professional HR intervention.

Before you make decisions about how you optimise your HR processes, you need to understand the demand for your ER resources in depth. Where it’s coming from, when it peaks and troughs, and what kind of support your people are looking for.

Identify which processes can be automated, which can be managed at source by managers, and which need to be escalated to different types of HR professionals – technical advisers or specialised consultants.

Then, you can work out the most effective ways to modernise and optimise – and put together a compelling, data-driven business case that clearly outlines the organisation’s HR problem areas and how BPO will overcome them.

Modern case management for effective ER

To deal with the legal, ethical and practical complexity that comes with ER, it’s always best to choose a solution that’s been specifically developed by HR professionals who understand what is needed for the most efficient, robust case management process. As you can’t just lift and shift from IT, you have an opportunity to implement a system that’s not just about the technology – one that’s built from the ground up with navigating ER policies in mind.

With so much on an HR leader’s agenda it can be difficult to find extra space for initiatives like this, particularly if there is no clear driver from the business to change.

With a combination of HR, digital and process transformation expertise you will be able to gain visibility and control of your case management activities. Overlaying all of the possible tools and approaches will support the drive for business efficiencies and effective ways of working alongside assurance – capturing and storing policy information and providing good advice in line with employment legislation.

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