HR, IT Collaboration Key for High-Volume Hiring

By Dave Zielinski May 21, 2021
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​Challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of one of the most fraught-but-vital relationships in the organization—the one between the human resources and information technology departments.

Where there was good collaboration and ongoing communication between those two functions during the pandemic, the employee experience usually benefitted. When HR and IT operated in silos and out of alignment, employees suffered.

Some organizations are applying lessons learned from the pandemic in hopes of enhancing the employee experience and improving processes in areas like high-volume hiring. The importance of the HR/IT relationship was explored by Danielle Cox, senior manager of IT at Divvy, a provider of expense management and budgeting software in Draper, Utah, during a session at the recent virtual HR Technology Conference and Exposition. 

"Communication and collaboration between IT and HR are so essential to ensure things go smoothly, especially with new-hire onboarding and training," Cox told the conference audience. "From the IT side, we need to know who is being hired and when and what their roles will be so we can provide the right hardware and software on time and help train those individuals on our technology systems."

The need for good collaboration between HR and IT was never greater than during the COVID-19 pandemic, Cox said. The quick shift to remote work created challenges that only good communication and teamwork could overcome.

"We had to adapt and realize what we were doing before the pandemic with onboarding and training would no longer be sufficient and changes were needed," Cox said. "But we also realized if you already have good plans, communication practices and automation in place, it's easier to adapt when circumstances change."

One example of the need for change came when Cox's lead times for ordering equipment like laptops for new hires shifted dramatically. "Some things now weren't available for nine weeks, for instance," she said. "That required a new level of communication with HR to ensure I knew exactly when new hires would be starting so I could order things on time. I needed to know what the hiring plan looked like even before jobs were posted."

Cox also had to factor in time required to ship equipment to Divvy employees now working remotely at home. "Those shipping times could be up to two weeks, if you factored in the bad weather affecting certain areas of the country at the time," she said.

Creating Collaboration Systems

Even before the pandemic, Cox said her IT group held regular meetings with HR and established a group-chat channel to make it easier for the two functions to communicate.

"In a hyper-growth environment like we have in our company, it's easy to move so fast that HR is going in one direction while IT is moving in another," she said. "When you think you're on the same page, there actually can be a split or redundancy in communication to employees. That's why frequent collaboration is important."

Jessalyn Klein, head of people and culture at Workato, a provider of workflow automation tools in Mountain View, Calif., also participated in the conference session and told the audience that amid busy work schedules, it's not uncommon for HR and IT to overlook the need to communicate key planning details to the other side. That's where the use of automated systems and reminders can help.

"We make sure to give our IT group easy access to our hiring plan so we can walk our talk," Klein said. "We want IT to know when new jobs will open up in the company and what those roles will need from an IT support perspective. Automation helps us stay on top of that communication and also ensures we keep sensitive data private and secure on our HRIS platform."

Clarifying the Division of Labor

Good collaboration between IT and HR around challenges like high-volume hiring needs starts with a shared understanding of the culture, Cox said. "What kind of experience does the organization want for new hires and how can IT help support that? That culture around onboarding should be clear."

Cox also said clarity about the division of labor between IT and HR for new-hire onboarding and training is essential to creating a good employee experience. "It's important to clarify who owns what components of onboarding," she said. "You need to determine exactly what HR owns and what IT owns and what kind of autonomy each side might have within that structure, so everyone is connecting and staying aligned."

Klein said an experience at Workato underscores the importance of such role clarity. The company was growing quickly and bringing in new technologies to support the workforce, with training on use of those technologies a top priority.

"But we discovered new employees were being inundated with e-mails on their first day of work, and some of those e-mails were redundant," she said. "Similar e-mails were being sent from both HR and IT because of the sheer number of new systems being introduced."

To resolve the problem, HR and IT collaborated to consolidate that messaging to ensure new hires were getting just the right information at the right time, Klein said.

The work never ends when it comes to how IT and HR need to collaborate in constantly evolving or high-growth environments, Cox said.

"Our IT training for new hires continually needs to be refined, especially in the technology industry where everything changes so quickly," she said. "It's important that onboarding training and our knowledge bases be up to date to reflect changes in the organization's technology ecosystem. IT also needs to ensure those changes in training remain in alignment with HR's vision for how that training should look."

Dave Zielinski is a freelance writer and editor in Minneapolis.

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