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It’s a crazy time to be in HR. While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disastrous impact on the workforce as a whole, it has also, within certain industries, sparked a hiring boom.

Last month, for example, companies like Amazon and Instacart announced plans to hire hundreds of thousands of new employees. Education-focused startups like the San Francisco-based Outschool, which provides online classes, announced in March that it needed to hire “5,000 teachers to meet an 11x increase in demand.” Digital communication solutions like Zoom, which have become mission-critical tools for enterprises managing distributed teams, are hiring engineers and salespeople, according to CNBC.

And a lot of people are applying for these newly open jobs. Recruiter.com is seeing significantly increased resume submissions within its network of recruiters. At Tonkean, in the wake of our Series A funding announcement, we received more than 600 applications for the dozen or so positions we’re currently hiring for. For us, that’s unprecedented.

This frenzied hiring activity, and all the onboarding, legal, logistical, research, and recruiting work that goes along with it, is placing an unusual amount of strain on HR teams. In doing so, it’s offering company leaders new insights. Among them: Organizations need to begin investing more strategically in the tools, systems, and workflows with which they power the HR function.

HR Personnel Will Play an Increasingly Pivotal Role Inside Organizations Moving Forward

This increasing importance is not simply a product of increased hiring and recruiting activity. It also marks a cultural shift away from internal strategies that focus solely on business outcomes, in favor of strategies that appreciate employees. This new model prioritizes the unique and dynamic needs of people, because people have very much proven to be organizations’ most valuable assets.

Soon, the idea that HR should act as a purely administrative function will disappear completely. As the need to secure high-level, irreplaceable skills grows, companies will wake up to the potential of HR as an engine for empowering employees to engage in strategic, high-leverage work. This change is already well underway. Google — the company that coined the term “people operations” — has redesigned its entire HR apparatus to this end. The result has been an increase in innovative capacity and employee happiness.

One question should be at the top of every company leader’s mind right now: How can we strategically empower our HR teams in much the same way as Google?

One answer: by equipping HR teams with the technological resources they need to balance their varied cultural, administrative, and strategic responsibilities.

HR teams tell me they all want to spend more time focusing on strategic work, but they inevitably get pulled in to put out fires on the administrative side. We can take much of that administrative burden off their shoulders by implementing a few best practices:

  1. Get adaptive: Implement adaptive business operations technology that allows HR teams to create automation-augmented workflows and processes. Armed with this technology, HR teams can more purposefully and efficiently vet, assess, and pitch new hires, as well as triage rapid increases in job applicants.
  2. Use human-in-the-loop automation:  Human-in-the-loop automation — that is, automation that knows how to include human input for decision points and dynamic processes — has the potential to solve many of the problems that have long beguiled HR professionals. Examples include: navigating several disparate applications to set up new hires with equipment and account credentials, and manually conducting quality assurance across hundreds of offer letters. When machine-learning and AI-enabled technology handles repeatable tasks, HR can focus on more strategic deliverables.
  3. Give HR a seat at the table: Grant HR leaders a level of internal influence befitting the importance of the work they do. This will only become more important as HR teams continue evolving from a back-office function to mission-critical people operations. HR teams, after all, are uniquely equipped to empower companies on a human level by creating processes, workflows, and cultures that make organizations more efficient and innovative.

Start Empowering HR Today

The HR function is uniquely positioned to help companies optimize their operations by becoming more efficient, more people-focused, and more adaptive and resilient in the face of an unpredictable economy.

I believe the companies that make these adjustments and investments now will realize competitive advantages. Amid the coming hiring spikes, companies will develop reputations, good or bad. If your company doesn’t run its hiring process optimally — if 90 percent of the candidates in your pipelines are simply ignored — word will spread.

On the other hand, if you approach the process with efficiency, innovation, and empathy for both applicants and your people on the ground, you’ll become known for that, too. Of course, that’s only possible if the HR function is properly invested in and lent requisite credence inside your company.

Sagi Eliyahu is the CEO and cofounder of Tonkean.

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