From the outside looking in, IT and HR may not seem so similar.
A bundle of responsibilities comes to mind when you think of an HR team: Recruiting, hiring, facilitating employee growth, managing performance reviews, and stewarding a strong company culture are just a few of the things that team is tasked with. When you compare that to the list of areas IT owns—implementing and overseeing company applications, making sure employees have the equipment they need, securing the company’s network, streamlining processes, managing data, and much more—it doesn’t look like they have much in common.
But after spending nearly a decade working in the IT space, I’ve come to realize that fundamentally, HR and IT share the exact same goal: Support the business by serving employees.
Collaboration between HR and IT is massively important. The role of both teams is to support other people in their jobs to help them succeed. From roles that are customer-facing to sales, finance, or marketing—whatever it might be, IT and HR are alike in that they support everyone in the company.
In my current role as Director of Information Technology at Divvy, a Bill.com company focused on being a one-stop-shop that simplifies, digitizes, and automates complex financial operations for small and mid-size businesses, I was tasked with creating a first-in-class onboarding experience. This opened the door to building a strong collaborative relationship with HR that has revolutionized the candidate and employee experience at Divvy.
But what does building a truly unique onboarding process actually look like? It started with an idea that on the surface seems simple: We wanted to create a positive, warm, and welcoming onboarding experience. Both teams, for instance, agreed that laptops should arrive in their box and on time at a new employee’s home before their start date. But we also wanted people to be able to start working the second they opened their computers…not after three weeks of onboarding, trying to get access to the necessary software, and jumping through hoops to figure out what they need to succeed in their new role.
Creating a first-in-class onboarding experience extends far beyond equipment, though, and supporting employees in their journey at a company is not a one-time thing. This is where the collaboration begins.
When developing an unparalleled onboarding experience for candidates became a company-wide goal, IT and HR started working hand-in-hand. A challenging problem on its own, the complexity was compounded by the fact that Divvy was acquired nearly a year ago by Bill.com. Not only were we trying to set up the systems to automate software provisioning and equipment delivery, but we also needed to combine all of the employee data from Bill.com and Divvy into one Human Resource Information System (HRIS).
While HR owned the process of combining all of the employee data, IT’s involvement had to be pretty detailed because we utilize the data from the HRIS in other software. This meant that it was crucial that the data was accurate and that all of the existing automations would still work properly. All of the employee data from our HRIS goes into the Single-Sign On (SSO), and a number of automations and connections happen from the SSO to all of our other software. Step one was making sure that was all being done correctly.
We spent many hours together in meetings planning, executing, implementing and testing these changes to connect the HRIS to our SSO, so that’s where you really have to be close to one another and understand how each team works. At the end of the day, HR has its own objectives and initiatives, and so does IT, but we are trying to achieve the same thing: support the business so the business can keep operating and growing. Making sure that we were aligned on that goal was critical to working together.
So back to onboarding: Employees should have access to their computers and all of their software instantly when they start. To do this, we executed software provisioning from the data that we get from the HRIS—this is why it’s so important that the data there is accurate. If someone’s department is listed as IT, for instance, then the SSO is going to give that person access to the department’s tools. It’s pretty complex to set up behind the scenes, but I have an amazing team who does that really well. The concept is simple, but without accurate data, it won’t be properly executed.
We’ve additionally leveraged automation to improve the overall employee experience by being intentional about not only giving employees the right software, but also the most relevant information within the software. For example, we put them in the right channels within our chat software so that they know where to find their team, HR support, and other relevant information the second they’re added. This empowers them to go forward and ask questions, get involved, and find what they are looking for throughout their employee journey.
By working together to serve the organization, my team and the HR team have developed a really strong working relationship, but it definitely took some work to get there. On the IT side of things, I definitely feel my peers’ pain when it comes to working with less technical teams that manage their own applications and often feel empowered to make changes that can impact the whole ecosystem. But what I would say is that change has to start with you.
You need to be the one that says I am going to be accountable for making sure things run smoothly. You need to take ownership and seek out genuine collaboration with the other stakeholder. When it came to assisting HR with their dream of producing the best possible onboarding experience, I said, “I can help you fix that, but what I need in return is collaboration, discussion, planning before implementing, and testing on both sides.”
Early on, I began taking that initiative on my own, and over time brought more and more people into the fold. For our joint projects to succeed, there have been times when we have needed to meet weekly or monthly. The cadence changes based on the project’s needs, but I have never gone more than three months without meeting with the HR team. To continue our partnership and growth, I never want to stop reiterating the importance of our relationship. I don’t want to get complacent and lose sight of the value of our collaboration, and the consistency and personal responsibility I prioritized really helped build the foundation for success. IT has the power to make everyone’s jobs easier—it’s just presenting the information in the right way, acting as a consistent partner, and proactively seeking out process improvements that will make your collaborators repeat customers.
Ultimately, our collaboration led the team to scale for hypergrowth, which led Divvy to a $2.5 billion acquisition last June.
My advice is to have patience. You can move fast and still be patient, understanding that other teams have their own initiatives. But the more you can provide potential collaborators with the ROI of implementing process improvements, the likelier you’ll be to get their buy-in. When I showed the HR team how many hours it was taking per employee to manually provision applications, it revealed the amount of time being wasted both on the IT side and the employee side. The longer folks have to wait to access their software, the longer it takes for them to get up to speed.
The way you communicate also makes a difference. I always try to speak both to a specific team’s pain points, as well as those inefficiencies’ impact on the business as a whole. If you are trying to improve a process, remember you are approaching it from a different perspective. Oftentimes the parties involved in a process are used to it and think it’s fine, so proving the value is essential. I try to talk with leaders because they tend to understand the full scope of their whole team, but I also empower my team to work directly with individual contributors. HR is really receptive to it, especially when we show them the immediate positive impact it could have on them.
And lastly, don’t forget to document success stories and share them. The more value you bring to other teams, the more they start coming to you. The sky is the limit when you are working with tools that allow custom automations and improvements. Share your wins!