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Building rigidity into HR processes

Organisations replacing or upgrading their HR systems to the new generation of consumer internet applications epitomised by Workday HCM encounter a new landscape of readily configurable, rapidly deployed Business Process definitions.

This infinitely tweakable “chocolate box” of a toolset provides the ability to encode rules, enforce behaviours and generate a panoply of ‘to-do’ tasks and notifications. Great, isn’t it? Well, no.

Left to their own devices, the HR function is liable to do what any child set free in a candy shop would do, and the consequences can be unpleasant for everyone, including HR. Let’s start with encoding rules. When designing HR business processes, HR need to remember that computers don’t do context, discretion or flexibility. Not unless they are told to. So before building a rule into an HR business process, think long and hard about whether there could be exceptions.

Imagine if the CEO expressly required a step to be skipped or a limit to be lifted and you had to tell her that “the system” does not allow it. Imagine a business process that requires the CFO to approve all terminations, and then consider the situation in which the CEO is firing the CFO. That’s not a great time to realise you built too much rigidity into your HR processes. If you’re an HR leader, you probably consider that you should be a role model to your management colleagues, and you probably also feel the burden of having to “embed”, reinforce or improve behaviours – good quality and timely performance appraisals, equitable pay rises, adherence to corporate values and so on.

So it’s tempting again to use the new HR system to further your aims. And again, the risk of such good intentions backfiring is not negligible. After all, one of the drivers in implementing Manager Self Service is to make managers accountable for their decisions, isn’t it? At Kainos, we would recommend a more nuanced approach, combining guidelines, warnings and audit reports to make it absolutely clear to employees and managers what the “right” course of action is according to your corporate policies, but still allowing exceptions – hence accountability still rests with the manager. Any exceptions can be flagged up straight away on a dashboard or generate an alert on your mobile, so you can see if anything really strange is going on.

In conclusion, it’s in the nature of HR processes and policies that exceptions do sometimes arise. Don’t configure your solution to make it impossible to process those exceptions.

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