Written by Deepak Bharadwaj, General Manager of the HR Business Unit at ServiceNow
In 1981, James Hetfield, an unknown vocalist and guitarist responded to an advertisement posted by drummer Lars Ulrich in a local newspaper. From this meeting, Metallica was born.
As a huge fan of Metallica, my ears are still ringing from the last concert I attended in San Francisco’s Golden Gate park. Every time I see them live I walk away amazed at their talent. For many, Metallica is the epitome of heavy metal, and while many of their peers from the 80s and 90s have faded away, Metallica is going strong. They released their tenth albumin2016 and have sold more than 58 million albums, a number only exceeded by the Beatles and Garth Brooks.
I’ll spare you the rest of the history lesson, but I hope you will indulge me on what makes this band so popular: What may sound like loud noise to some is a four-person group coming together, each with their own style and backgrounds to create a finely orchestrated metal experience.
HR leaders can draw inspiration from Metallica and its frontman, James Hetfield. The key to a successful organization isn’t much different than what makes a band successful. A band finds success when they can pull all of the different parts together – lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, drums and vocals – all working in perfect harmony creating that sublime listening experience for the audiophile. Similarly, an organization finds success when all departments providing service to employees – IT, facilities, finance, legal and of course HR come together to create that unparalleled end-to-end employee experience. And HR must be in front with responsibility and accountability for this outcome.
Take onboarding for example: HR helps set an employee up with their tax forms, direct deposits, benefits packages and employment contracts, IT also has to to provision their laptops and accounts, while the office manager helps with a desk area and whatever other supplies may be needed. It is hard to imagine an effective onboarding process that does not bring all of these departmental services together. Yet, for many years HR has operated in a silo with little interaction with other departments leading to often disjointed processes. But employee expectations in the workplace have changed significantly, and HR can no longer ignore collaborating with others outside HR. It takes all departments working together to provide a positive and exceptional employee service experience.
While Hetfield wrote the lyrics to “Enter Sandman,” it was lead guitarist Kirk Hammett who did the riffs. The end result was a song referred to as one of Metallica’s best moments and earned them a place on Rolling Stone Magazine’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list. Its time for HR to create that well-orchestrated masterpiece.
Before we get into the “how” let’s begin with the “why.”
Employees first (♪ Nothing Else Matters ♪)
I’ll start with the backbone of the organization, its employees. When you look at the employee experience, one of the most important things to consider is employee interactions with HR and other departments that provide service. If employees are frustrated with the level of service they experience, then something needs to change.
Today’s employees want their experiences at work to be just as easy as ordering a Lyft or shopping on Amazon or booking an AirBnb or filling out their tax returns with Intuit’s Turbotax. They want easy and fast access to information without having to spend time searching or having to ask around. They want to be able to make a request and receive regular updates and reminders if further action is needed, but with little to no exposure to what’s going on “behind the scenes” to fulfill the request. From their standpoint, providing this level of service across the enterprise should be a top priority for organizations and they look to HR to own that end-to-end experience for important life events such as having a baby, a promotion, a transfer or onboarding. Yet, a recent study ServiceNow commissioned of 1,850 business leaders shows that HR is the department most in need of a “reboot.” Not only that, the study also revealed that the three most inefficient processes also happen to be HR-related – employee relocations, leaves of absence, and onboarding.
Enough is enough, it’s time for a change.
HR is the Lead Vocal (♪ Master of Puppets ♪)
When James Hetfield was asked about Metallica’s hit Master of Puppets and what it meant for the band he explained that they were “definitely peaking” and that the album had “the sound of a band really gelling, really learning how to work well together.” Drawing inspiration from that massive hit of a song, I’d like to suggest that given the employee expectations in today’s world, it is time for HR organizations to begin “peaking” and reaching new levels of effectiveness by coordinating across the organization and “gelling” the various departments and processes. By doing so, HR becomes the lead vocalist and leader of the employee service experience, making sure processes and tasks get completed with complete end-to-end visibility.
Almost all employee life-event services provided by HR touch other departments. With better cross-departmental coordination, companies are sure to see increases in efficiency, greater visibility into processes, and overall happier and more productive employees.
Here are four steps for organizations to achieve cross-departmental success:
- Clean up shop. Before anything, each department needs to clean up their act and get organized. HR cannot successfully bring departments together if individual departments are bogged down in managing requests in an unstructured manner.
- Unite departments. Work towards a “team” approach by getting all departments involved. Welcome ideas and have open discussions about how departments can work together better to provide the best end-to-end employee service experience.
- Constant communication. Provide a way to communicate back and forth effectively, between departments and with employees. Be transparent and open with departments as you help guide them through processes while reminding them of the benefits to their group and the organization.
- Ongoing optimization. Use analytics and employee feedback to determine what is working and what can be improved. This should be an ongoing process that is constantly evolving and proactively looking for ways to be more effective.
While HR may not officially belong to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, HR organizations can certainly be rock stars within their company. By bringing departments together and working as a team, not in silos, HR can lead the way in improving the employee service experience.