The average U.S. worker spends on average 47 hours a week at work, 14 hours a week being productive, and nearly 10 hours a week distracted and surfing mindlessly on the web. As an HR executive, the struggle to optimize and elevate the most important tasks that you and your team must focus on to achieve company goals is constant and unrelenting.
This is the case with any leader in the workplace, but the trap of busywork hits human resources particularly hard as we balance our priorities in recruiting and attracting candidates with employee engagement and retention. We’re spread too thin and often confuse activity with impact. In order to streamline our work in HR, we have to be able to hit the “pause” button.
How Do We Streamline Efficiency in Human Resources?
In an upcoming webinar (7 Strategies to Streamline HR Busywork and Maximize Your HR Team’s Productivity), we’ll talk about this in detail, but here I’ll go over a few things you can do right now to get started.
First, if you wait for the right time to hit the “pause” button, you’re not going to find it. Even if it’s just one day, block it out on your calendar (along with your team), put the phones on DND, set up an out of office message that explains you’ll be available on the next business day, and schedule a conference room with a whiteboard (don’t forget lunch) for the day. Eight hours spent going through seven strategies that will increase productivity by 25%? It’s a better investment than a day-long training seminar.
Since we love our lists in HR, this is where the whiteboard comes in. Once all brains are on board, start making lists. You can break them down by staff member or function, depending on how your team is structured, but these are the primary efficiency thieves that you’ll want to identify.
List #1: Audit your workflow – make a list of everything your team must do on a regular basis and all the moving parts involved. This is where you’ll look for redundancies and things that aren’t necessary. Do requisitions require three or four people to get into your ATS? Could it be accomplished with one less step?
My daughter is a swimmer. She’s 10 and is spending a lot of time in the pool learning the basics with the goal of increasing her speed and strength. We need to do this for ourselves in HR. In order to increase our productivity, we need to get back to the basics and audit our front stroke before we are ready to jump off the blocks in the next swim meet. She’s been training for several months now and is ready to test her skills in the swim meet this Sunday.
List #2: What can and your senior team members delegate? As the leader of your team, what can you delegate to seasoned team members? What can your more experienced team members delegate to less experienced team members? We all have trouble letting go of important tasks, but if you’ve done your job someone on your team has the ability to make the same judgment calls that you do. The best leaders are great at delegation and it’s an important skill in HR, as we tend to take on additional responsibility without relinquishing what we’re currently doing.
List #3: What are you doing manually that can be automated? If anything you do involves handwritten forms or filing paper, these are the biggest culprits for busywork. With technology like DocuSign for documents, online forms, and so on, your team shouldn’t be handling paper at all.
Once you have your lists, take a step back and define which tasks are directly tied to your department and company goals and which are “maintenance” tasks. The former are your strategic goals and the latter tend to be things like weekly reports for a distribution list (these can and should be automated) or other “nice to have” tasks that wouldn’t be missed if your team stopped doing them. Each task should be fall into one of these categories and everything on your maintenance list should be evaluated: Can you stop doing it? Can your technology do it?
Process is Everything in Our Roles in Human Resources
So many of us are using robust HR technologies, but we’re either not aware of all capability or we simply neglected to use them. This is a great time to assign a team member or two to take your list of maintenance tasks and do the research (through your technology help portal or by contacting the vendor directly) to find out if reports can be set up for automatic distribution, if there are self service options (like your employee benefits portal) that can be expanded, and so on. Important: The team member(s) you choose must understand that they officially own this task, the timeline in which they’re expected to find the answers, and their role in training or executing the tech that you pay for but just discovered.