Bersin by Deloitte recently revealed which key differentiators the highest performing HR organizations have that others don’t in “High-Impact HR”. High-impact HR organizations are seen as HR departments that increasingly drive business and workforce-related outcomes. Out of Bersin’s research, they found that 34% of organizations surveyed were considered high impact. Those organizations within the 34% had some key characteristics setting them apart which we’d like to further evaluate.

The highest performing HR organizations…

1. Focus on a flexible and empowering workplace experience

“Leading HR teams are applying design thinking and partnering with their organization's product, sales and marketing teams to overhaul HR offerings and to create engaging employee experiences. These organizations are more than 5-times more effective at improving employee engagement and retention than their peers.”

Our Take: Creating a flexible and empowering workplace isn’t about pool tables, nap pods, or bringing your pets to work. It’s about re-configuring your organizational structure, changing the way you lead, delivering feedback in real-time, providing new rewards systems or whatever it takes to support your employees in a way that helps them put their best foot forward.

Take Action: Get an employee’s experience started off on a positive note from day one by upgrading your employee onboarding process. Did you know one-third of employees know if they’re going to stay at a company long-term after their first week? The first week, and the first 30 days are crucial to the employee’s impression and progression into the company. Take a look at our 90 day breakdown of successful employee onboarding for tips on building a strong employee experience from the start.

High-impact HR organizations share these key differentiators according to @Bersin. #HR

2. Apply advanced HR technologies to help improve work, not processes

“High-impact organizations are increasingly experimenting with and applying new digital platforms that can improve productivity, feedback, and alignment among teams, rather than just automating existing processes or creating integrated systems of record with standard HR tools.”


Our Take: Many HR functions that were carried out manually are now being automated through HR technologies. However, to stay up-to-date with the evolution of HR technology, it’s crucial that HR organizations introduce forms of Artificial Intelligence into their tech stack. Artificial Intelligence has the opportunity to take the world of HR to new heights while also gaining long-term benefits. And HR pros are excited. 65% of HR managers don’t see AI as a threat, and as more HR pros are informed on all that it can do, we expect to see that number rise.

Take Action: What used to be about speeding up processes will now be about making more intelligent decisions. Automation in HR technology allowed HR to streamline, but AI in HR technology moves beyond automation into  machine learning, offering smart recommendations for your talent strategy. Where HR Technology used to be able to reduce administrative tasks and cut out certain steps for HR professionals, it now helps them make better and more intelligent decisions. Stay up to date on the HR areas where AI will have the most impact and consider the following areas: compliance, quality of hire, quality of onboarding, goal alignment and predictive performance that can be improved by advanced HR technologies in our Becoming a Data-Driven HR Function whitepaper.

3. Shift to understanding and optimizing networks of teams

“High–impact HR organizations are redefining their talent practices around teams, instead of around hierarchies. Top organizations are 4.5-times more likely to practice effective teamwork and collaboration when they dedicate an increasing share of resources to building teams and supporting them to help drive business performance.”


Our Take: 83% of professionals depend on technology to collaborate, and 82% would feel impacted if this technology to collaborate was lost. Therefore, not only is changing the design of your teams and the environments they operate in necessary, but so is ensuring collaboration technology is readily available.

Take Action: Once collaboration tech is in place, how do you motivate employees to collaborate? What if providing all of the tools and the right environment isn’t enough? Kevin Martin, Chief Research Officer of the Institute for Corporate Productivity explains a common barrier:

“The lack of incentives and rewards is the most common and powerful barrier to effective collaboration. Yet, most talent management systems are designed to reward individual achievement, not team accomplishments… Finding ways to recognize and reward individuals, leaders, and teams who engage in productive collaborative behaviors can pay off in a big way.”

It may be an aha moment for you, but making sure collaboration comes full circle is crucial to its success. We live in a world where people are racing against the clock for that next promotion or raise, and sometimes it’s at the cost of their team’s performance. The adage “you’re only as strong as your weakest link” should apply in the way teams are rewarded. It may be time to consider adding team performance goals and metrics to your performance management process.

4. Lead the company's digital transformation efforts.

“While companies have struggled to make HR relevant for many years, Bersin's research shows that high-performing companies use HR to lead the digital transformation of the company. Organizations that use HR in this way are 2.5-times more likely to reach the ‘high-impact’ level in the research.”

Our Take: Since HR is the management of people and processes that keep companies performing, it is the department where successful tech implementation starts, and also where, if not appropriately supported, success can be stunted. HR manages your most important asset, your people, and choosing the right tech is key to success.

Take Action: In some organizations, strengthening internal communications via collaboration technology is enough to improve interactions and bolster strategic discussion. In others, it might take more to bridge the gaps between executives and their employees. Create a corporate transparency policy that both meets compliance and the needs of the company and its people. Incorporate goal-setting and performance management technology to show employees how their daily job affects overall success while highlighting the importance of that work to executive members.

In terms of company-wide progress, choosing the right HR tech that best fits the needs of your people lays the groundwork for success and innovation.

5. Shape and drive culture.

“HR leaders who promote and strengthen a culture of trust, inclusion and accountability to empower learning, innovation and performance are 5.1-times more likely to make employees feel connected and valued.”

Our Take: Company culture development should be multifaceted, but always focused on what helps employees grow - personally and professionally. That includes training and skill development alongside increased efforts in diversity recruitment and inclusion. Another survey from Deloitte found that 80% of employees believe inclusion is important in choosing an employer, 72% would leave their current company for one with a more inclusive culture and 30% of Millennials have already left an organization for another more inclusive one.

Take Action: Make a more intentional diversity recruitment program by using an applicant tracking system that provides predictive performance and assessment tools so that your hires are based in skill and ability. However, diversity recruitment isn’t sustainable unless inclusion is properly managed. Create an inclusive environment with a talent management solution that monitors changes in performance and productivity throughout an employee’s tenure.

The highest performing HR organizations have these characteristics… does yours?

6. Revitalize and develop the HR function.

“These high-impact HR organizations are heavily focused on internal development and regularly outperform their peers in areas like analytics, artificial intelligence and data security.”

Our Take: When organizations have optimized their HR functions and completely integrated them into business strategy, innovating new and better tools and tech is natural. When the basics are maintained, building on basic structures is easier and far more favorable for the workforce.

On the other hand, if your HR function is missing those necessary collaborations or frequently misses the mark, adding those additional elements could have disastrous results. When there’s little success in those foundational structures, it’s hard to feel comfortable stepping out of the box. Additionally, a team that never explores the industry will always miss the latest developments and trends.

Take Action: Make your HR function solid by embracing the basic technologies that maintain candidate experience, recruit A Players, manage those A Players and encourage skill development and training. With the right tech and tools, your team can focus more on the strategic approach they take to talent management. Always encourage your HR experts and leaders to broaden their knowledge. Things like conferences and industry specific networks and publications can not only reinvigorate passion in practice, they are amazing forms of education and ideation. For instance, conferences like the Talent Success Conference, SHRM and DisruptHR promote HR innovation and introduce new ideas for invigorating your HR practices.

Being considered a high-impact HR organization is a long journey for most, but by applying these high performing concepts to your own HR functions, attainment is possible.

For more on building a high-performing HR function, we recommend following our HR Audit Guide to kickstart your quest in making these necessary changes.

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Sara Pollock
Sara Pollock
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As the head of a department in the midst of a sustained period of rapid growth, Sara has spent hundreds of hours interviewing, hiring, onboarding and assessing employees and candidates. She is passionate about sharing the best practices she has learned from both successes and failures in talent acquisition and management.

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