HR process improvements: Where and how to prioritize


HR process improvements: Where and how to prioritize

The future of HR in the face of COVID-19

We highlight the importance of investing in process optimization as a key success factor in the journey towards becoming a more resilient HR organization. In light of the likelihood of budget and resource limitations we introduce an approach to realize quick impact on the business.

This blog is part of a blog series around how HR needs to start reimagining their future to thrive in the post COVID-19 world. Click on the button on the right for the full overview of the blog series.

COVID-19 has changed the world, testing organizations’ collective resilience, agility, and adaptability, as it has fundamentally shifted how we work and do business. When there is disruption, there will also be recovery, so how we act in a time of crisis will often determine our long-term impact. It is likely that HR is expected to do the same (or more) with less resources and money. With budget cuts already starting, it is crucial for HR to focus on areas where real business impact can be made. We will most likely never return to “old ways” of doing business, as the pandemic has created an opportunity – or rather an imperative – for HR to focus on value adding activities. Yet, for HR to only focus on added value is easier said than done.

This year’s Human Capital Trends survey (2020) clearly shows that HR organizations are struggling with the prioritization of HR’s work and effort (click here for the full article ‘A memo to HR: the changing role of HR management’). This finding leads to a set of fundamental questions HR will need to answer: Which are the areas where the biggest business impact can be made? Which challenges surfaced during the COVID-19 outbreak and should therefore be addressed today? Where should we focus now that time and resources are limited?

Blog series: The future of HR in the face of COVID-19

See the full overview of the blog series

Start small, Improve Fast

HR organizations need to focus on business continuity and smarter ways of delivering work, starting with looking at how (efficient) HR processes are designed. The likelihood of budget- and resource limitations make it necessary to start small and realize quick impact on the business. A focused approach is required. Deloitte’s ‘HR process Health check’ enables HR to (1) identify current pain points (2) define and prioritize improvement opportunities and (3) design a solution prototype (for example a process redesign, a governance optimization or an HR Technology improvement) within two weeks. Rather than focusing on the full process scope of HR, the health check singles out one (sub-) process where the challenges and/or impact are the greatest.


Delivering impact to the business in only two weeks requires a different way of project execution. Key success factors are short review cycles, a lean project governance, decisiveness, co-creation and an agile project delivery approach. Together as one team we will identify where the biggest business impact can be made. This of course depends on the business context and will therefore differ per organization. Whereas for example thoroughly reviewing the data points in the resume screening process – as an enabler for mass recruitment - can be business critical for the one, simplifying an HR admin processes can be business critical for the other.

So how will this work in practice? The figure below outlines the activities during the 2-week process health check:

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Process health check in practice

As a result of the outbreak of COVID-19, child care and schools were closed. To support employees to balance their work and family obligations, an organization decided to expand its family leave policy. Employees with childcare responsibilities got the opportunity to take a full day off, but would only need to hand in half a day from their leave balance. However, after the first period the usage of the new policy was not as high as expected.

In order to investigate and improve this, the organization started with an HR quick scan to identify which elements in the current leave process were causing a lot of pain and frustration amongst the employees. After the analysis of the outcomes of the scan, it became apparent that the process to request COVID-19 related family leave was perceived to be cumbersome. Key drivers for frustration were the time it took to fill out the online leave request form, the complexity of the form, and the amount of approval steps in the process. After having discussed the outcomes with the project team, the following hypothesis was formulated: “Simplification of the leave request process will lead to a significant increase in the usage of the COVID-19 family leave policy”. To test the hypothesis, a few potential solutions were identified: (1) redesign of the leave request form (2) reduce the amount of approval steps in the process (3) add COVID 19 family leave registration option in the HRIS. In this case, the project team decided to add a new leave registration code to the HRIS to make it possible for employees to register the COVID-19 family leave in the system they were already familiar with.

Start today to impact tomorrow’s success

The time is now for HR to embrace the future, expand its reach and focus, to make real business impact. It all starts with prioritization of HR’s work and effort. We believe that a robust and digitally enabled process structure is pivotal in the journey towards becoming a resilient HR organization.
Beyond HR process improvements, we know each organization will need its own combination of solutions. This is why we have developed 6 point solutions (click here) for the questions we believe are keeping CHROs awake at night. These are tailored to drive HR’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and position it to thrive in our new reality.

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