A Special Report is content that is edited and produced by the Special Reports unit within The Irish Times Content Studio. It is supported by advertisers who may contribute to the report, but who do not have editorial control.

Tech solutions to help ‘the people profession’

HR teams facing challenges as companies such as Dropbox launch virtual first strategy

Tools that keep employees connected and enable productivity have never been more important.

Tools that keep employees connected and enable productivity have never been more important.

 

Human resources is known as “the people profession”. But Covid-19 brought a raft of challenges for HR professionals as their staff shifted to remote working, and recruitment, development, support and training became virtual endeavours.

The good news is that there is a plethora of tech and software solutions to help HR leaders work more efficiently in this new paradigm.

MHR Global have 35 years of expertise and offer a suite of solutions to support the world of work, solving any issue their clients might have around HR and payroll.

Eamon Rheinisch, general manager Ireland at MHR Global, agrees that the pandemic has fundamentally changed how organisations work. Although most companies have pivoted successfully to remote working, challenges have arisen in areas such as business resilience, workforce flexibility and employee engagement.

“The disruption to HR departments can largely be linked to how far along they are in digitally transforming their processes. For some it was a wake-up call that these outdated processes represent a real business continuity risk,” he says.

MHR Global was “well-placed” to respond to many of the challenges of this new environment, and they noticed a significant uptick in demand for solutions depending on where a company was on their digital HR transformation journey, he says.

“Whilst we develop both on-premises and hosted solutions, we have expertise in cloud-based products designed to be accessed wherever an employee finds themselves, but also to give an organisation the tools to nurture and maintain company culture.”

‘People first’

One example is their “People First” HR platform, which Rheinisch says was designed with the end user in mind.

“It gives organisations the tools to support employee engagement, collaboration and boost communication. Over the last year we’ve seen that with fatigue, stress and general mental wellbeing an ever-greater concern, the platform has proved invaluable for many in allowing employees to connect with each other, their line managers and wider organisation.”

He adds that check-ins are built into the system, and these have proved invaluable, providing an easy way for both employees and managers to discuss wellbeing, career development and performance. The platform also has a communities feature, which gives employees the chance to collaborate and recreate those “water-cooler moments”.

“We have seen customers use this feature to recommend box sets and books to keep up morale through lockdown,” Rheinisch says.

Dropbox is one company that transitioned to a global work-from-home policy overnight. Caroline Nangle, head of HRBPs-Tech, says this took place relatively smoothly.

“Our people were already well accustomed to the nature of distributed work; we were lucky to be at a company that designs products for online collaboration,” she says.

Nangle says, however, that their HR teams and processes have still had to adapt, particularly as they’ve now launched a virtual-first strategy, in which remote work will be the primary experience for employees even after the pandemic.

For example, onboarding can be “tough”, she says, especially for early career hires who may require a bit more support and guidance.

“To support them, we’ve had to develop virtual onboarding plans that provide a roadmap for their first few weeks and beyond with the business. These include everything from virtual product walkthroughs, guided 1:1’s on IT set-up, scheduled coffee chats with new colleagues and a virtual buddy system to make sure our new joiners feel connected from day one.

“The key to this has been in ensuring that each experience is personalised to the unique needs of each new employee, the team that they are joining and the role that they’ll play at Dropbox,” she says.

Connectivity

Tools that keep employees connected and enable productivity have never been more important. “For example, VC solutions such as Zoom have allowed our people to keep the conversation going with their colleagues. Asynchronous tools like Dropbox Paper have provided a collaborative space to build projects and share feedback. Meanwhile, instant messaging platforms such as Slack have kept our employees connected when it comes to discussing or celebrating ideas.”

Companies investing in the right technology to support remote work will also find themselves at a competitive advantage when it comes to future talent attraction and retention, she adds.

But Nangle is also keen to emphasise the “flip side”, saying HR leaders have never been more mindful of their roles in helping organisations manage the “always on” nature of work and the impact it can have on the health and wellbeing of employees.

One of Dropbox’s wellbeing initiatives is their “Unplugged” time off, launched last year, which automatically shuts down an employee’s access to work-related technology when they take time out.

“Whilst highly productive tech has enabled workforces to shift to remote work during the pandemic, organisations must make use of the new technologies available in a healthy and productive way,” she says.

And while these technologies are here to stay, Nangle is adamant they will never be a substitute for the value of in-person collaboration. “The human, face-to-face element to work will always be important, particularly as it pertains to culture, creativity and community, and it’s something that technology cannot fully replace.”