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This is Why HR Pros Must Understand the Business They Serve with Darcy Mackay, Rippling

Human Resources has a bigger impact on business growth than you may think. 

Traditionally, HR is brought on to create a positive and safe work environment. But that has evolved to enhance employee engagement, drive growth through learning and development, and much more. 

So, how do HR and People teams turn silos into success and bridge the gap between employee experience and business impact?  

Darcy Mackay, SVP of HR and Client Services at Rippling, joined the LEARN podcast to share her insights and experiences from her extensive career in HR and business leadership. Darcy delves into the evolving landscape of HR, the intersection of technology and HR, and the importance of employee experience in modern organizations. 

Employee experience is crucial for organizational success

HR and People professionals often face challenges when managing siloed backgrounds and specialized disciplines within their teams, especially as teams grow and scale. It’s crucial to intertwine specialized HR disciplines with employee experience to ensure that HR practices align with the bigger picture.

“As organizations grow and HR professionals have an opportunity to take on another FTE or a few FTEs, you’re typically drawing from people who have very siloed backgrounds in many ways,” Darcy says.”It’s a discipline that has become quite specialized, and the specialization is fantastic. But if it’s not strung together with the employee experience in the middle of it, It leads to behavior that may fit the immediate task at hand but may miss the bigger picture.”

Darcy shares that in these circumstances, organizations should take a people-centric approach.

“What I’m talking about is human-centered design,” she says. “Whether you’re an individual contributor or a manager or the CEO, we’re all employees of a company. What is that experience? And so one of the first things that I did besides just resetting the leadership team and bringing in some new talent was to look at how we reconstruct a journey for the employee that was consistent with the brand we wanted to put forth in the market and the type of talent we wanted to attract.

“We put together that journey [for employees] linked to learning and development, compensation, and the full picture of the employee lifecycle. Then, we integrated the HR team around that so that our processes and, ultimately, the technology were connected for the employee.”

Read more: 7 Things Employees Want From Employers

HR professionals must understand the business they serve

Darcy shared her professional journey from being a business leader overseeing large teams to stepping into the role of Chief People Officer (CPO). Her experience gave her a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by HR professionals. 

She emphasizes the need for HR teams to excel in their discipline by understanding the business they serve. 

Darcy gave an example of working with a recruiting team responsible for sourcing talent for repairing HVAC and chiller systems. She discovered that these recruiters weren’t aware of what a chiller was, so she took a recruiting expert on a field trip to the hospital to see what a chiller looks like and understand why it’s important, for example, keeping infants alive in the NICU. 

“It just gave so much meaning to her and her role, and she then understood actually what she was doing,” Darcy says. “I think the message here is not that everybody needs to understand an HVAC system, but rather, when you’re in HR, you actually need to learn the business you’re there to serve. You have your own discipline, your own expertise in HR, and that’s terrific. But if you don’t know your business and you don’t know your end customers, you’re not going to be working at your full potential.”

This understanding is pivotal for HR professionals to work at their full potential and contribute meaningfully to the organization’s success.

Technology can streamline HR processes and improve employee experience

Darcy joined Rippling, a company focused on streamlining HR processes through technology, to address the pain points she experienced throughout her career. She highlights the potential of technology to prevent HR problems, enhance HR team efficiency, and free up bandwidth to focus on strategic planning and workforce development.

“I was interested in this idea about how technology could help solve many of these problems and prevent problems before they even occur,” she says. “And also because going back to this premise, HR teams are so pressed to do more with less. If you get the underpinning of your employee record and the technology right, you can grow your capacity to serve as an HR team or as a finance team more efficiently with that technology than you otherwise would.

“Going back to kind of my beginning journey here, I could have taken at least a third of my team and freed their bandwidth completely to work on the kind of strategic planning and workforce development and planning work that I needed to grow my business instead of chasing down all these problems with running global payroll, for example.”

Read more: How to Future-Proof Your Team to Thrive in an Ever-Changing World

Focusing on outputs over inputs is vital for HR success

Focusing on outputs over inputs is crucial for teams as it shifts the emphasis from mere effort to tangible results, fostering a results-oriented culture. Darcy emphasizes the need for HR professionals to prioritize activities based on their impact on the business and realign their focus to deliver measurable results. 

“I think we need to have the discipline of really unpacking what it is that we’re doing and where we need to keep, start, or stop doing things, and HR is good at focusing on activities as opposed to how are we measuring results and any good business person will be much more focused on the outputs rather than the inputs,” she says. “And I think if all HR professionals had the discipline of really force ranking their activities with the business and prioritizing, they actually would be able to let go of their bottom quartile of work more regularly and then redeploy that into the things that matter for the business.

“Learning and development is the classic Petri dish for that. Or, name your analogy where people love to run programs, they love to load LMS systems with all of these things, but to what end and how are we actually measuring the efficacy of those programs to the business?”

HR professionals must adopt a disciplined approach to prioritize activities based on their impact on the business. By strategically assessing and reallocating resources, HR teams can enhance their effectiveness and contribute significantly to the organization’s overarching goals.

As HR continues to undergo transformative changes, understanding the business, leveraging technology, and adopting an output-oriented approach is crucial for HR professionals to drive impactful change within their organizations.

Listen to the full episode for more insights from Darcy, and subscribe to the LEARN podcast on Apple, Spotify, or YouTube to learn from top leaders in tech.

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