One of the strongest alliances human resources can have within an organization is with the IT department because, of all parts of the organization, IT probably has the biggest impact on the employee experience and employee engagement. While HR is focused on programs and processes and IT is focused on technology, both departments have to be intentional about providing employees with a great experience.
Employees need tools and resources to be able to do their jobs well. Without the right, well-functioning tools, employees face frustration and diminished productivity. These days, many essential workplace tools — e-mail, computers, phones, software, Internet connectivity and more — are supplied and maintained by IT.
At the same time, organizations have to make decisions about what type of devices employees will use — desktop phones, computers, tablets, smartphones, etc. — and who will supply those devices — the company or employees through a BYOD policy. These decisions involve considerations of cost, effectiveness and company culture, and they need to be made jointly by HR and IT. The two departments must work together to design and execute effective strategies for areas like this where they have overlapping goals and concerns.
When HR fails to collaborate with IT
At one company I worked at earlier in my career, we spent a great deal of time and effort developing and launching a new external brand, which centered on portraying the company as innovative, fresh and easier to do business with. We worked hard to educate all employees about the new branding and how to convey it to customers, but we forgot to get IT involved.
Without IT’s participation, we failed to get essential tech systems aligned with the new brand. The resources customer service employees used to assist customers who called in were spread out in a variety of places, so they had to fumble through a variety of systems to do their jobs. This slowed down service and left customers with the idea the company was confused and difficult to do business with.
3 Ways HR Execs Can Encourage Effective Collaboration with IT
It takes strong collaboration between HR and IT for each side to understand how technology, programs and processes affect employees’ ability to do their jobs, influence employee engagement, and drive performance and productivity. And there are three ways HR executives can work to build that strong collaboration.
- Start at the top. At every organization, it’s essential for the head of HR to establish a strong working relationship with the head of IT. You should talk about how you can collectively create value for the organization and drive business outcomes to meet the overarching strategy. This helps connect the two departments and sets an example for others — encouraging them to work together and come up with collaborative ideas.
- Listen up. To identify common priorities, HR needs to practice active listening when IT talks about what it’s working on. Be on the lookout for projects that affect engagement, productivity, retention and other HR priorities. Take notes and think about how the two departments can work together to align their goals.
- Stay on top of tech trends. Too often, HR teams are focused on HR trends and ignore how technology will affect us moving forward. One example is wearable technology. It’s already affecting wellness initiatives, but we need to be thinking about how it may affect the employee experience in other ways. Understanding what’s happening with technology in general and thinking about how that relates to HR will help make collaborating with IT easier and more productive.
Chris Powell is the CEO of BlackbookHR, a software company on a mission to create more engaged and connected workplaces and communities. He previously served as executive vice president of human resources for Scripps Networks Interactive (HGTV, DIY, Food Network, Cooking Channel, Travel Channel, et al.), as vice president of human resources for the global financial services company ING, and in various corporate HR roles at Marriott International.
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