It’s safe to say that business functions are moving to the cloud in droves, but what isn’t as widely reported on is how ‘cloud natives’ are driving innovation and identifying new business use cases underpinned by the cloud’s strengths. Though not commonly recognised as an early adopter and driver of new technology, HR has actually been a cloud evangelist for nearly a decade now, with the cloud transforming Human Resources management significantly.

HR cloud natives – those who have knowingly embraced ground-up native cloud systems and digital-first HR – are seeking out new and better ways to harness the latest technologies to the benefit of both their organisation and employees.

So, what can these early adopters teach us about the power of the cloud beyond the obvious, and how can we take a leaf out of HR’s book and apply this expertise to other business situations?

1- Always On, Here to Help

HR was surely one of the first departments to exploit the employee-empowering element of the ‘always-on’ cloud.

Employees expect information at their finger-tips so that they can execute at a time that suits them, whether that’s checking holiday and requesting time off, or doing basic admin on the go. With HR in the cloud, you can do your timesheets on the train if you want to, or request your next holiday from the beach. It’s a great example of how well suited the cloud is to most employee-related activities.

2- Driving Engagement

Being a long-time pioneer of innovative cloud use, of course, has its benefits. HR cloud natives have a long history to tap into when it comes to demonstrating how the cloud has helped increase engagement within the business, and with potential employees and new joiners through online recruiting and more recently onboarding software.

Not only has HR technology helped practitioners cut down on paperwork, it has also done so while facilitating better communication and engagement. For years, HR cloud natives have been using social platforms and HR systems to post news, invite feedback, and create a sense of community, while also providing a ‘one stop shop’ where employees can showcase their own talents and interests, and engage with colleagues across the business.

3- Breaking down Boundaries

The use case for the cloud has no better example than where HR systems help establish a sense of community across international organisations, allowing employees to connect with each other via a common platform from wherever they are.

What HR cloud natives have also excelled at is nailing ‘local’ as well as global; recognising that a one size fits all approach just won’t work. As valuable as it is to have a single consistent view of employee and organisational data to drive strategic workforce decisions, local relevance is even more important.

This is not only critical to compliance, but also to employee uptake, a pre-requisite if HR systems are to deliver on their promise. If an employee can’t use the system in their own language, recognise the date formatting or terminology, trust the system to calculate time off entitlements in line with their local legislation, or help them connect with colleague in other countries, the system will quickly be abandoned.

4- Personalisation

HR software and the cloud have not replaced conversations between HR managers and employees, but they have supported it, and in many ways, transformed it. Information is more visible, managers and employees more accountable, and outcomes easier to track.

In keeping with the theme of customisation, HR managers are also tailoring onboarding processes and performance reviews to be relevant to individual employees, rather than opting for a standardised approach. It means that employees stick around for longer because they get customised regular feedback, which supports their performance improvement and overall career progression.

It’s a great use case and highlights the cross application amongst other user journeys. By applying the same logic and processes to the customer experience, for example, we may find that customer churn is reduced and customer loyalty is increased.

5- Agile and Future-Proofed

Last, but not least, HR cloud natives have proven that modern, cloud-first multi-tenanted solutions are not just equal to – but better than – older cloud-enabled single tenant solutions.

Multi-tenanted systems, which can be switched on almost instantaneously, are purposely designed to be quick to deploy and configurable by non-technical users – all while taking full advantage of the scalability and cost-efficiencies of modern cloud infrastructures. For the most part, they offer the same features as the older systems, but at a lower cost and with less complexity.

The ramifications are significant. Since it’s now easy to test drive these cloud-native applications before committing to them, cloud-natives have ditched long-winded RFIs and selection processes in favour of user case scenarios and hands-on experience. Rather than taking months or years to go live, company-wide enterprise HR systems can be deployed in just a few weeks – or even days. With more scalable IT infrastructures, HR teams don’t need to turn to their suppliers to add more capacity, but can simply add new employees, departments and countries whenever they want.

Contract terms are generally shorter too, in months rather than years. If customers aren’t happy, they can walk. Suppliers are staying much closer to their clients, actively canvassing ideas for improvement, and ensuring that these find their way into their solutions and their services much faster than in the past – some suppliers update their systems almost every month.

For businesses, this raises an interesting question. Should you be flexing your business model in the same way as your HR tech suppliers to accommodate feedback from customers, employees and other stakeholders? And, if so, do you have the people, skills and technologies in place to facilitate this?

Perhaps start by talking with your HR team.