5 trends to look out for in HR procurement in 2014
The global economy is starting to recover, but companies are still wary about overstretching themselves financially.
Directors and Chief Executives are generally more optimistic about their business prospects than they were just a few months ago, while economists are predicting a prolonged period of growth in the manufacturing, construction and services sectors. Although a greater number of firms are now in a position to expand, they are likely to adopt a more sensible approach to growth than in previous generations.
In order to grow without incurring unnecessary costs, organisations are becoming increasingly reliant on HR Procurement Managers. In the past, HR and Procurement were two separate entities within most companies, but now they have become much more closely aligned. A HR Procurement professional will not only scrutinise the cost-effectiveness of certain products or services, but they will also assess whether they can fit in with a firm's existing HR structure.
With new technology emerging all the time, companies are looking to adopt advanced systems that streamline their HR operations. The way in which HR departments operate has evolved dramatically in recent years and while it is difficult to predict what the industry will be like in 12 months' time, it is likely that cloud computing, social media, big data and the increasing need for analytics will have made a considerable impact on the sector.
Here are five possible trends to look out for in 2014.
Greater adoption of SaaS solutions
Cloud computing has transformed the way businesses operate. More companies are now outsourcing large parts of their IT infrastructure to specialist third-party organisations and this often includes technology used by HR departments.
Adoption rates of software-as-a-service (SaaS) have risen sharply in the past year and this is likely to continue heading into 2014. By entrusting certain HR tasks to an external firm, HR professionals can commit more time and energy to more pressing matters, such as onboarding new hires.
HR management SaaS provider Workday believes companies must move with the times. In a recent blog post, the IT service provider's Vice-President Leighanne Levensaler explained why businesses with dated technology might find it hard to keep hold of their best talent.
"An organisation's HR technology has to be current with the technology expectations its workforce has as consumers, or it will fail to engage them," she wrote.
"Pushing HR technology from the dark ages stops engagement dead in its tracks. Less engagement means less contribution, less communication and less insight. Not only does that hold the business back, but top talent has no use for laggards - they will leave for employers that know how to operate in today's world."
Companies will continue to adopt "blended learning" processes
Although technology has already made a huge difference to the way HR departments operate, there is still a place for face-to-face training sessions held by experienced business experts.
An article published by HR Magazine showed that many HR specialists are adopting "blended learning" procedures, which is a combination of technology-based education and human-led lectures. Santiago Iniguez, the Dean of Madrid's IE Business School, told the news provider that this way of teaching employees represents "the future".
"Its high-quality online learning combined with face-to-face sessions. Technology won't replace professors, but we need to bring the professors into this new world," he was quoted as saying.
HR departments must remember that employee training must be a continual process and should not just stop once a new worker has successfully completed their probationary period. Even staff members who have been with a firm for many years can benefit from blended education.
More emphasis on social media
Social media has revolutionised many industries in the past few years, including HR.
Companies are now scrutinising the credentials of potential employees by monitoring their activity on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Xing and LinkedIn. Some experts have criticised these "spying tactics", claiming that HR departments are infringing upon people's privacy, while others believe it is a perfectly legitimate way to judge whether a candidate is likely to fit into a business.
An infographic published by Online Paralegal Programs in November 2013 showed that 75 per cent of business owners expect their HR teams to search through someone's online profile before giving them an interview. Around 70 per cent of organisations have decided not to hire somebody based on what they have seen on their social media accounts.
This is not the only way businesses are using social media portals, though. More firms are now setting up internal networks that can help new workers fit seamlessly into the organisation.
A separate infographic produced by HR services provider BLR showed 41 per cent of companies now use social networks to improve employee communication, 34 per cent utilise them for training purposes, while 26 per cent said such platforms are vital to their onboarding processes.
Expect to see HR departments placing greater emphasis on social media in 2014.
The rise of HR "in-outsourcing"
The concept of outsourcing has already been covered in the cloud computing section, but another trend that is likely to emerge in 2014 is HR "in-outsourcing". According to the PHS Group - an organisation that provides workplace services - more companies will adopt this cost-effective approach in the coming months.
A statement by the firm read: "2012 brought outsourcing. 2013 brought insourcing. 2014 will mark the birth of the hybrid as business will mix in-house staff and outsourced service providers to combine the skills of a number of experts and create an even tighter service."
Third party HR service providers can not only take some of the strain off in-house departments, they also have a more neutral view of a company. Sometimes businesses can become set in their ways and one dimensional, so it is a clever ploy to garner fresh ideas and insight from somebody on the outside looking in.
Employee healthcare will become a bigger priority
According to a Corporate Synergies Quick Poll conducted in October 2013, one of the biggest challenges facing HR professionals at the moment is selecting suitable healthcare benefits packages for their staff and then encouraging employees to use them.
John Turner, Chief Executive Officer and President of Corporate Synergies, said it is important for companies to have an open mind towards new benefits offerings. He feels that businesses need to strike a balance between cost containment and ensuring their workers are as healthy and happy as possible.
"History shows us that adoption of new ideas in employee benefits takes time: even when something isn't delivering what you need, it's hard to break old habits," he commented.
There have been signs to suggest HR departments are increasingly looking to offer employee perks that will help to reduce absence rates. A report conducted by The Work Foundation showed that 44 million workers throughout the EU suffer with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and this has resulted in a sharp increase in the amount of sickness leave being taken.
In order to tackle the problem, companies have been advised to offer treatments for workers with persistent aches and pains. By providing free physiotherapy sessions, levels of employee engagement and motivation are likely to rise, while the number of costly absences will fall.
Stephen Bevan, Director at The Work Foundation, said: "Access to early healthcare interventions for workers with MSDs is not being prioritised.
"Thousands are taking unnecessary long periods away from work or even leaving work permanently when tried and tested tactics to speed up their recovery and return to work [are available]."
Greater provision of more personalised and health-related employee benefits is another trend to look out for next year.