Bureaucracy must die: for HR departments it’s kill or be killed

HR has to eliminate its ‘administrivia’ before it can begin to lead innovation in corporate strategy. The question is how to buck the trend of bureaucracy. User-friendly online tools like Turbine have an essential role according to experts.

Bureaucracy paperwork

“Bureaucracy must die!” Gary Hamel made this declaration at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)’s annual conference earlier this month. He’s a man worth listening to.

Hamel is ranked as the world’s most influential business thinker by the Wall Street Journal and Fortune magazine has called him “the world’s leading expert of business strategy.” Hamel said that HR needs to be as experimental as marketing and R&D departments in order to live up to its responsibility for improving competitiveness and productivity.

The problem, in part, lies in the paperwork.

Why we hate HR

In 2005, Keith Hammonds wrote an article entitled, ‘Why we hate HR’. The Fast Company article lambasted HR for focusing too much on ‘administrivia’ and not enough on corporate strategy and innovation. “A dark bureaucratic force,” is how Hammonds charaterised the human-resources trade.

The article had a lasting impact: it angered many, but is also resonated with a lot of HR professionals who were frustrated by the limitations of their industry. In 2011 Bersin and Associates took Hammond’s infamous article as a starting point for a study into how the profession had evolved in the intervening years:

“In the years since, HR leaders have fought an uphill battle to change the profession…The challenge for HR now is in living up to the high expectations that come with the seat [at the table].”

The study set out the 10 most important areas of best practices where HR professionals needed to realign their priorities in order to live up to those expectations. Amongst them was the need to improve employee-facing HR systems, such as those used for knowledge sharing, management interaction and recruitment.

The value of employee-friendly HR systems

“HR functions with user-friendly client systems are regarded as twice as effective and efficient as functions that do not invest in this advantage”.

The good news now, is that there are tools available that are both functional and well designed, which can help to eliminate HR’s adminstiriva. These tools allow HR professionals to answer Hammond and Hamel’s calls-to-action and to start leading long-term corporate strategies.

Turbine, for example, is an online, self-service management tool. It lets employees submit purchase orders, expenses and time off requests from anywhere with an internet connection. In turn, managers and HR teams can approve requests, initiate appraisals and comment on tasks in the same way. Importantly it is simple and elegant to use. “The interface is responsive, designed superbly, and efficient,” said GetApp’s review.

Technology to the rescue

There are tools for other areas of HR’s administrivia too. In the area of recruitment, for example, there are several online video-interviewing tools that recruiters can use to break through the viscous cycle of application forms. They allow you to streamline recruitment and improve the quality of hires, whilst at the same time improving candidate experience. They are functional and user friendly, just as they need to be.

Bureaucracy, administrivia, paperwork: whatever you choose to call it, it has long been an albatross around the neck of the HR industry. With the advent of cloud technology and an increasing emphasis on usability and design, tools for eliminating that burden have begun to emerge. HR professionals finally have what they need to enter what Hamel referred to at the conference as the era of “management 2.0”.

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