People & Leadership

4 vital steps when testing and experimenting ideas in HR

Find out how testing and experimenting can help HR leaders make informed, credible decisions and recommendations.

When it comes to HR, the days of strategies, initiatives and policies being ‘once and done’ are over.

As new ways of working come to the fore and the pace of change accelerates, HR and People leaders will need to think more experimentally to test, adapt and iterate their strategies and ideas to find out what really works in their organisation – both for today and tomorrow.

In this article, we take a look at everything HR and People leaders need to know about testing and experimenting, why this agile approach is vital in today’s world of work, and how you can start today with help from HR tech.

Here’s what we cover:

Testing and experimenting – why now?

Before the pandemic, just 29% of HR leaders were set up for agility, adaptability and speed, our research found.

When coronavirus happened, this dramatically changed.

The world of work shifted, and HR had to navigate their organisations through unchartered territory.

Employees had to work remotely practically overnight, and it catapulted priorities such as wellbeing to the top of the HR agenda. It meant HR had to become more agile in their approach, to shift and adapt in times of change.

However, HR continues to move through unchartered territory today.

With the great resignation, the move to hybrid working, the rising importance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and so much more, it’s more vital than ever for HR to move away from modelling other organisations and for each HR team to find their own path in an agile way to support their organisation.

Testing and experimenting enables HR teams to do just that.

Testing and experimenting in HR

Software engineering teams have been working in this way for years, breaking away from rigid systems to working in an agile way through testing and experimentation in small increments to constantly innovate and optimise.

Like software engineering, for HR, successful testing and experimenting means a shift in mindset – moving away from a ‘once and done’ approach to a more iterative way of working.

For example, drafting a policy shouldn’t ever gather dust and become outdated. It needs to be constantly reviewed and revised.

However, at the heart of this way of working is HR tech.

You need a system that can support you when it comes to gathering, segmenting, analysing and interpreting data, so you can use those actionable insights to find the right solutions for your people.

What can you test and experiment in HR?

While testing and experimentation can be used in practically any area of HR, here’s some suggestions.

Hybrid working policies

One of the biggest trends to come out of the global pandemic is the rise of remote and hybrid working.

With many employees never worked fully remotely before, it’s driven employees to want more flexibility in where they work.

In fact, one in five employees want to work remotely full time after the pandemic, and 51% of employees who currently work in a hybrid way would consider leaving if this option was removed.

As a result, many organisations are still working out how many days employees need to be in the workplace and how many they can work elsewhere.

This is where testing and experimenting can really help.

If you can find out what your organisation wants when it comes to hybrid working, you can roll out a plan and use people data to understand how well it’s working.

By iterating and reiterating, you can make any necessary adjustments to make sure you’ve found the right balance for your employees, so they’re at their most productive.  

Wellbeing strategies

Searches online with terms such as ‘signs of burnout’ increased by nearly a quarter (24%) in 2020 compared to 2019.

The pandemic has taken its toll on employees, so organisations should look to continue to support employee wellbeing.

But which initiatives will truly help to support your employees?

A bank of wellbeing days? Implementing walking meetings? No meetings out of hours?

Making the wellbeing initiatives chime with your employees will help with uptake and overall satisfaction, so this is certainly something to consider testing which initiatives work best for your people.

By testing and learning from different approaches, you can find the right fit for your company and people – and ensure you’re always ahead in the market when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent.

Recruitment practices

The great resignation is making the jobs market fiercely competitive, so you might be reconsidering how you can hire the best talent.

Now could be a great time to try something new with your talent acquisition processes to see if this helps you to find and hire top talent faster.

Ask your candidates and current employees for feedback, so you can start to act upon it and test and experiment with your recruitment practices to find and hire the best talent.

Other opportunities for your organisation to test

Many of the areas we’ve mentioned above are larger and more long-term initiatives and strategies that you might look to test and experiment with the help of HR tech.

However, there are likely to be other incremental but important changes that you’d be able to make with a highly configurable, scalable and flexible cloud HR and People system.

For example, HR leaders who had a cloud HR and People system during the pandemic meant they could make changes and customise their technology at a drop of a hat.

This allowed them to tailor communications effectively, take new approaches to things such as managing remote teams, and, if needed, add in vaccine management tracking – all without having to go out and procure new systems.

They’re now also able to remove areas of the system that are no longer needed – all with clicks, not code.

That’s why, when it comes to experimenting and testing in HR, it’s vital you have a scalable HR and People system to be able to make the changes you want to see quickly, so you can adapt as you need to the changing working environment.

4 vital steps when testing and experimenting in HR

These are just some of the areas in which HR leaders can test and experiment.

However, as we’ve already said, testing and experimenting at its heart relies on a configurable and flexible HR system.

So, here’s our four-step approach to getting it right, with help from HR tech.  

1. Survey your target groups and get feedback

The best place to start is by collecting high-quality people data and getting feedback from the right people.

If you survey people often, you don’t want them to experience survey fatigue. So pick your target groups wisely based on what you’re looking to test.

A cloud HR and People system can provide you with a pool of people data which you can then segment.

For example, if you were looking to address hybrid working, you could conduct a survey that asked employees about working hours and style of working, the ideal at-home set-up, and what they believe to be the right balance of home and office.

2. Collate and analyse the survey results

This part may sound obvious, but it’s so important.

Survey results provide a solid basis for understanding the needs and desires of the wider business and will also highlight differences in opinion.

It’s also a crucial step for measuring the success of whatever you then implement. You can survey again and compare results.

This is where it’s vital to track and analyse the results over time. Our research shows that 70% of HR leaders say they’re not providing leading metrics, data that indicates future trends, despite it being a priority for the C-suite.

By tracking these metrics over time, you can spot trends and predict them before they happen.

3. Use the information to make informed decisions

This can be harder than it sounds, especially if you are trying to manage conflicting opinions.

However, having garnered everyone’s input, you’re now in a prime position to craft an informed approach that benefits both the business and your employees based on the numbers.

And this will allow you to provide the insights to the C-suite about the best course of action.  

4. Execute your new approach – and keep iterating

Finally, take the time to inform employees of the upcoming change before implementing. This gives them space to get used to the upcoming shift and gives you time to plan.

At this stage, you’ll need to look to implement new workflows and rules depending on the change you’re making. You might need to create new teams, objectives or dashboards to adopt and then monitor success.

Once you’ve implemented your initiative, strategy or policy, it’s vital to keep on testing, experimenting, adapting and iterating.

You might have implemented something new but there’s likely some tweaks and adjustments you could make after you’ve collated feedback. If something isn’t working, you go back to the data, do some more digging and follow the process again.

Standing out in the new world of work

There’s never been one rule book when it comes to HR because every person, team and organisation is different.

But in today’s world of work, HR leaders have even more of an opportunity to set their organisations apart and create a truly irresistible place to work.  

Testing and experimenting is vital to getting ahead and enabling your organisation to stand out from the crowd. So be sure to follow the steps and make sure you have a flexible and configurable HR and People system in place that can support you.

If your HR team can adopt a mindset where testing and experimentation is the norm and leverage your HR system, then you can make sure that your HR and People strategy is always tailored to your people, as your organisation continues to evolve.