What are HR best practices?
HR best practices are the principles or guidelines proven to streamline the people processes of a company. They tend to be universal regardless of the organizational type or industry. Research and experience show that when companies in any sector apply HR best practices, they see wide-ranging improvements, including increased motivation and productivity, better employee engagement, and higher retention rates.
When companies implement best HR practices, they create working environments where people thrive—ultimately boosting the business’s bottom line.
What’s the difference between HR practices and HR activities?
If HR practices are universal principles or guidelines, then HR activities are the hands-on HR tasks and functions—like payroll—HR professionals handle on a regular basis.
For example, a list of HR practices might entail updating and implementing the HR department’s mission and goals. They can also include planning and measuring new people programs, like career development and training for future leaders.
You can incorporate best HR practices into your HR activities (e.g., recruitment, payroll, calculating comp and benefits packages, and tracking time and attendance). Combining HR best practices with HR activities enables HR departments to reach their potential and operate smoothly, fully leveraging your investments in people.
7 HR best practices for the modern workplace
Since COVID, people’s expectations of the workplace changed dramatically, and businesses have responded by adjusting. More flexibility, the adoption of hybrid work structures, and global expansion have all transformed workplace culture. These best practices for HR are fundamental to business success in the modern world of work:
1. Hire great people
Thriving modern businesses put people at the center of their business strategy. Allocating the time and resources to hiring the right people is key. Devote resources to diverse hiring and exceptional recruitment experiences. This is fundamental to building and nurturing a thriving culture and to making your company stand out against the competition when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent.
Providing prospects with a great interview and recruitment experience is critical. To ensure you provide prospects with the best interview and recruitment experience possible, it’s critical to keep communication flowing. Once you’ve hired the right person, keep in close touch right up to their start date to ensure they feel included and like they’re part of their new team.
2. Refine your onboarding processes
It’s critical to get onboarding right for on-site, remote, and hybrid work structures. Good onboarding processes are the key to making people feel welcomed, valued, and supported from their first day with your company.
Onboarding best practices include supporting new hires throughout their entire first year. This helps prevent churn, builds loyalty, and boosts retention.
Scheduling regular check-ins with new joiners can help them better understand their role and position within the company. Connecting them with an onboarding buddy is also good practice: It can help new joiners start networking with their colleagues and forge critical connections with team members from the get-go, leading to increased productivity and engagement.
3. Embrace hybrid work models
These hybrid work best practices are useful when considering the hybrid model that will work for your business:
- Work with leadership to determine what you value most as a business and how those values influence your work model
- Conduct pulse surveys to understand people’s hopes and expectations of hybrid working
- Establish a hybrid work policy that aligns with the needs of your workforce and your business
- Ensure you have the tech and infrastructure ready to support people when they work from home or the office
- Make it easy for people to book their in-office and work from home days so it’s easy to keep track of who’s where and when
- Take advantage of tools like Slack and Google Meet to nurture team communications
- Introduce team days to help people stay connected and create face-to-face relationships with their colleagues
- Keep an open feedback loop to address challenges and concerns as they come up—communication is key to hybrid success
When crafting a hybrid work model for your business, it’s important to understand what will work best for your people. Popular hybrid models include remote-first where people hardly ever come into a company office space. Then there’s split-week, where people are required to work on-site for at least part of the week. Finally, there’s office-first where people are required to work from the office most of the time but with some flexibility.
HR leaders are instrumental in designing a model that meets the different needs of their people—from young parents who may relish the opportunity to spend more time at home and less time on their commute each week to recent graduates eager to widen their social networks and learn from their peers and more veteran colleagues.
4. Refine your remote onboarding processes
Remote working models have been increasing in popularity for years but took off during the COVID pandemic as companies began accelerating global growth. With creative and inspiring remote onboarding best practices, modern companies can help remote team members feel at home, even before their first day—wherever they are in the world.
Efficient preboarding processes ensure all IT equipment is in place and networked so new joiners can meet their manager, get introduced to their team, and feel ready to start work on day one. Good remote onboarding practices set the stage for regular communication, check-ins, and feedback sessions between managers and new joiners, so they feel supported from their first date of employment to their last.
5. Introduce best practices for working across time zones
As companies expand internationally and employ remote and hybrid working models, they encounter new challenges. These can include managing a team spread across multiple time zones and maintaining a consistent company culture and employee experience over digital channels.
Modern HR professionals can help teams stay connected by adopting best practices for working across time zones, such as:
- Giving people greater autonomy over their work schedule
- Supporting working from home
- Setting and respecting time zone boundaries and work hours
- Scheduling emails in advance
- Ensuring communications are concise and clear
6. Provide a safe and healthy workplace
From the move to work from home (WFH) to mask-wearing and the appearance of bottles of hand sanitizer in every doorway, the COVID-19 pandemic changed perceptions around health and safety at work overnight.
Where workplace safety was once associated with heavy industries, today all organizations must demonstrate their care for people’s safety, whether your people are in the office, working remotely, or following a hybrid work model.
Best practices in HR for providing a safe and healthy workplace can look like adopting precautions against spreading illnesses, establishing safety guidelines, implementing workplace safety programs, or encouraging people to take regular breaks to prevent burnout and fatigue.
In addition to protecting people’s physical health, modern workplaces also invest in supporting their people’s mental health and wellbeing. Companies that introduce mental health programs see huge ROI (4 US dollars for every 1 dollar spent) as well as higher engagement, productivity, morale, and retention—and lower healthcare costs.
7. Introduce ongoing performance management
Ongoing performance management leads to higher levels of motivation and greater employee satisfaction. It also contributes to meeting team and organizational goals.
Performance management best practices include:
- Continuous communication and regular one-on-one meetings between managers and team members that encourage open conversation about successes, areas for growth, or just day-to-day concerns
- Flexible goal setting for the short and medium-term alongside measurable goal setting with OKRs
- Optimized compensation plans that include competitive benefits, like L&D opportunities or mental health and wellness benefits
Recommended For Further Reading
HR automation best practices
Keeping track of people data with spreadsheets isn’t sustainable in the modern world of work. As the need to manage global workforces becomes more and more complex and the level of compliance increases, modern HR professionals are turning to HR tech and automation to lighten the load.
By reviewing the employee lifecycle, HR professionals can uncover a wealth of opportunities for automation. By leveraging HR technology, you can take the heavy lifting out of all the manual tasks around recruitment and hiring, onboarding, training, performance management, compensation, benefits, and offboarding processes.
Implementing human resources best practices with HR tech
HR tech helps modern businesses automate those time-consuming processes that have traditionally been done manually. It also enables HR professionals to gain data-driven insights and understanding to help better devise an intelligent people strategy for the business.
In a fast-moving, multi-national business world, HR tech supports people professionals with programs across the modern organization, from workforce planning and onboarding to building remarkable company cultures and enhancing the employee experience. HR tech supports modern businesses to evolve, scale, and manage progressively more complex people processes with ease.
Incorporating HR tech into your HR best practices frees you up to focus on solving business-critical issues and improve productivity, performance, costs, and HR effectiveness to deliver even greater value for the organization.