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A beginner’s guide to 5 progressive HR practices

May 10, 2022 - 14 min read

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What is progressive HR? 

What makes progressive HR different? 

How do progressive human resources impact teams? 

5 progressive HR practices

We’re currently amid The Great Resignation. Employees are leaving their jobs in record numbers. (According to data from the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 24 million people quit their jobs in the second half of 2021.) As a result, organizations do everything they can to keep employees with their companies, including exploring progressive HR.

Taking a progressive approach to HR can help your organization create a more supportive work environment. It can improve company culture. And it can set employees up for success.

All of which can help keep top talent with your company — making progressive HR a must-try in today’s labor market.

But what, exactly, is progressive HR? What does it entail? And what progressive HR policies can you implement to keep top talent with your organization?

What is progressive HR? 

As the name suggests, progressive HR isn't traditional. This form of human resources takes a newer, more liberal approach to human resources.

In the HR of the past, HR professionals were mostly focused on logistics like benefits, contracts, and compliance. And those issues are, of course, still important to business owners and HR teams alike.

What makes progressive HR different? 

So, what makes progressive HR practices different from more traditional approaches to HR? There are a few key differences, including:

1. Progressive HR focuses on people 

What's one of the most significant differences between traditional and progressive HR? It's that progressive HR puts people front and center.

Instead of focusing on the administrative side of HR, progressive HR is all about people operations. It’s about leveraging HR to create a better employee experience.

Now, that doesn’t mean that HR teams forgo administration altogether. HR professionals still need to take care of the administrative side of human resource management. (For example, benefits administration or processing payroll.)

But with progressive HR, those logistics take a backseat to take care of people. So while administrative duties will always be on HR’s to-do list, progressive HR is more focused on its people.

And on creating a company culture where those people feel seen, understood, and valued.

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2. Progressive HR policies empower employees

As mentioned, progressive HR is focused on people. But it also takes things a step further — creating policies that empower employees to do their best work.

How HR teams empower their employees will vary. Some companies may offer flexible working hours to accommodate working parents. Others might adopt a four-day workweek to give employees more time off. Others might offer things like virtual team-building activities. 

The specifics of the policies are less important than the thought behind them. Policies are created to help employees do their best work with progressive HR. And those policies do that work in a way that works for the employees' lives.

3. Progressive HR prioritizes inclusivity 

Progressive HR doesn’t just create policies that empower employees. It’s about creating policies that empower all employees.

Or in other words, progressive HR prioritizes inclusivity.

Many traditional HR practices supported some, but not all. Progressive HR aims to create an inclusive environment for all employees.

This can take a variety of forms. For example, companies might prioritize accessibility in the workplace for differently-abled employees. They may focus on developing DEI sourcing and hiring process. Or they may offer diversity training for all new hires as part of the onboarding process.

4. Progressive HR leverages technology 

Progressive HR leaders want the data and information they need to drive innovation and make the best decisions for their teams.

And that means embracing technology.

Companies with a progressive HR strategy use technology to gather relevant information and data. This is known as people analytics.

Then, they use those analytics and human resource reporting to make metrics-based HR decisions. These data-driven decisions better their companies, teams, and HR operations.

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For example, HR might use performance management software to gather data on employee engagement. Then, they can use that data to create policies and procedures that drive a higher level of engagement.

Or another team might use an employee survey software to gather information about employee goals. Then, they can use that information to develop their learning and development strategy.

Another team might use workforce management software to dig into employee productivity data. From there, they can use that data to build schedules that foster a higher level of productivity.

The point is that progressive HR departments know that technology can help them make better, more impactful HR decisions. And so, they leverage that technology whenever they can.

5. Progressive HR sets companies up for success

Perhaps the biggest difference between traditional and progressive HR? Traditional HR is about managing HR operations on a day-to-day basis. Progressive HR is about laying the foundation for future success.

Progressive HR is forward-thinking, innovative, and people-centric. It does more than help companies manage their processes. It actually helps them to grow, scale, and expand their company.

For example, in traditional HR, HR professionals focus on filling immediate gaps in the team. It’s a short-term solution for talent management issues.

But in progressive HR, it’s not just about getting someone into a role. It’s about taking a long-term approach and getting the right person into the position.

For example, HR might overhaul its talent acquisition and talent management practices. This can help them attract better candidates, giving the company a competitive edge and setting them up for future success.

How do progressive human resources impact teams? 

Progressive HR has a significant impact on HR professionals and HR departments. But it also has a significant effect on employees.

Progressive HR is focused on people instead of processes and culture instead of logistics. This creates a work environment where employees have what they need to succeed.

Employees feel supported in hitting their goals and doing their best work.

Teams feel like they work in a culture where their ideas are not only heard and valued but implemented.

Team members don’t fear discrimination or exclusion in a progressive HR environment. That's because, no matter who they are, they see themselves represented within the organization's diversity.

This can have a profound impact on teams. Progressive HR policies empower higher levels of productivity and efficiency. They can also create a deeper sense of loyalty and belonging, driving retention.

5 progressive HR practices

Now that you understand what progressive HR is — and how it impacts HR departments and teams — let’s go into some examples of progressive HR.

Here are five progressive HR practices that can help you attract and keep top talent:

1. Offering flexibility in how, where, and when employees work

COVID-19 completely changed employee expectations around work. And progressive HR policies honor that shift by giving employees flexibility in how, where, and when they work.

Flexibility could have a different meaning for different organizations. For example, hybrid organizations might give employees flexibility in when they work in the office and when they work at home. Other organizations might provide their remote employees flexibility over their work hours. This allows them to choose day or evening hours based on when they feel most productive.

When creating flexible work policies, it’s essential to think about what kind of flexibility your employees need. For example, if you have a lot of working parents on your team, you might offer flexibility with work hours. This can help parents better accommodate their children’s schedules.

Or, if your organization is headquartered in a city, giving employees the flexibility to work from home (and avoid rush hour traffic!) could be helpful.

The point is that traditional HR may have required employees to be in the office 9 to 5, five days a week. But progressive HR is focused on giving employees the flexibility to work how, when, and where makes the most sense for them.

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2. Offering support to under-represented groups

Creating a diverse work environment is a must. But progressive HR doesn’t just aim to create a more diverse workplace. It also creates policies and procedures that allow diverse workforces to thrive.

For example, your HR team might develop mentorship programs for employees in underrepresented groups. You might design initiatives designed to support diverse candidates’ advancement through the company. Or you might create opportunities for diverse candidates to share their insights on how the organization can improve.

BetterUp helps HR leaders create more diverse and inclusive work environments — and empower their teams. Get the support you need to increase inclusivity and belonging in the workplace. 

3. Using employee feedback to drive HR strategy

As mentioned, progressive HR is all about creating a work environment that supports an organization’s people.

And what better way to find out how to better support your people than to ask them?

Companies that embrace progressive HR ask their employees for feedback. That includes input on what they need, what they’d like to see, and what the company can do better.

Then, they use that feedback to drive HR strategy and implement changes across the organization.

For example, you might poll your employees to find out which technologies support their work — and which are hindering it. Then, you can use that feedback to adjust your tech stack — and get rid of tools that make your employees’ jobs more complex than they need to be. 

4. Offering industry-best compensation and benefits

In many ways, traditional HR is focused on the bottom line. How can we meet our goals for the lowest budget possible?

But progressive HR acknowledges that people need and deserve to be compensated appropriately to do their best work.

And that means offering the best benefits and compensation to employees.

Progressive HR teams offer competitive salaries and benefits packages. But they also provide additional perks and incentives. This might include things like wellness stipends, performance-based bonuses, or generous or unlimited PTO.

Go to bat for your employees — and offer them the best compensation, benefits, and perks possible.

5. Using technology to make employees’ work (and lives!) easier

Progressive HR teams aren’t just willing to invest in technology to simplify their employees’ workflow. They know that investing in that technology is key to empowering their employees to do their best work. And that helps them attract and retain top talent as a result.

Look into what technologies can help your team work better, faster, or more efficiently. Then, invest in those tools. 

When employees have what they need to succeed, they’re more likely to stay with a company. This is why investing in technology is one progressive HR practice that can help you keep top talent.

Start leveraging progressive HR practices 

If you want your organization to stay competitive, people need to be the focus. And making people the focus is the focus of progressive HR. So, if you want your organization to succeed, it’s time to look at your HR policies and procedures — and start making progress.

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Published May 10, 2022

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