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Optimize HR in 5 Steps

Written on:September 4, 2010
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Highly effective human resources is based on connecting our people through meaningful programs to the mission and purpose of the organization. Too often, we pay lots of attention to transactional efficiency and lose sight of strategic contribution and business value. However, with a little bit of planning and effort, HR can be optimized. The path to follow is simple, yet simple does not mean easy. Optimization can be a significant challenge.

I hear lots of leaders and employees asking “how can we fix HR?”  (Instead of “fixing HR”, I like to think of it as “optimizing HR”.)

Why do I hear so many people complain about HR? Each complaint has a different meaning, since it comes from a different customer perspective. At the end of the day, we need to be optimized to fully satisfy employee clients at the operational level, leaders at the strategic level and the company at the business value level.

We need not like any of the negative noise we hear, but, like it or not, the noise is there.  Is it deserved?  Many say it is not deserved, or is a sign of disrespect.  And, many HR colleagues spend much time and energy debunking the noise.   I suggest we accept the noise, liked or not, as the voice of the customer.

Let’s change the question.  Is HR willing to listen to the customer? Let’s listen to the noise, and connect with the customer.

Noted below are some simple steps which can be taken to deliver outcomes our customers value.  These steps are simple in concept, but, many times difficult to implement. Follow these steps to optimize HR!

  1. Right Person / Right Job
  2. Business Knowledge
  3. Get Data and Use Data
  4. Prioritize
  5. Plan and Work the Plan

If your HR function could use optimization, consider taking some starter steps.

Here are five starter steps to take –

1.  Right Person / Right Job
Make sure the right person is in the right job.  Put people persons at the front desk.  Put number crunchers in compensation.  Put obsessive detail people in benefits.  Put data mongers in with HR systems.  While knowledge is important, my belief, after leading a number of HR transformations, is that “right type” beats out subject matter knowledge any day (OK, there are some exceptions to this).  We can teach subject matter knowledge.  We can’t teach type.  This is sometimes the most difficult step to take – but it is the most crucial.  Every next step is affected by deployment of staff.

2.  Business Knowledge
Get knowledgeable about your business.  If you work in health care, as an HR person you better know about health care.  The trends, the challenges, your company, work areas and job roles.  What the similarities are, what the differences are.  Invite other business leaders to educate you.  Go and visit other work areas and ask questions.  Professionals know about their business – not just their functional area, but their business – and can speak about it to others in the community.

3.  Get Data and Use Data
There is nothing worse than “decision based on story”.  Get real information – get data.  It is easy to get data.  It exists in our systems, and also can be generated by anyone at a moments notice.  For example, if you don’t have an applicant tracking system, you can still track – use a piece of paper and hash marks.  If you don’t have a call tracking system, use hash marks – you get the idea.  Admittedly, not the most efficient, but doable.  And, the data generated is better than no data.  Professionals use data, track data, report on data, trend data, support proposals and budgets with data, and influence others with data.  Data is your best friend, and it is worth doing anything to get it.

4.  Prioritize
We are all too busy.  Make the tough calls, with intention and purpose.  Prioritize.  If you know the business and have data, you can more easily prioritize.  This means doing the more important things first – if you know your customers, it means doing those things your customer’s value first.  Keep your customers satisfied.  Professionals live or die based on customers; if you have customers you live; if you don’t have customers you go out of business.

5.  Plan and Work the Plan
Planning takes time, and can be simple – but not easy.  At a basic level planning tells us who does what by when.  Define your goal, set a due date, understand the steps or tasks required to get where you are going, and put someone in charge of each step or task.  Use this plan for routine reviews.  Keep yourself and others accountable.  Communicate status with all key stakeholders.  Imagine the power of having the right person with business knowledge using data to prioritize and following a well crafted plan.  Professionals deliver outcomes.

Bonus step #6 -
6.  Listen to the Customer
We are here and do what we do because we have customers.  Talk to your customers.  Ask them what they want or need.  If you make red widgets and your customers want blue widgets, what will you do?  I would start making blue widgets.  After you talk to your customers go and talk to them again and again and again.  You will be amazed at how much our customers crave attention.  And, you may even be able to help them understand that all your red widgets are really what they want after all.  Professionals constantly talk to their customers.  To communicate is to influence.

In closing, we began this discussion asking questions about the noise from complaining customers.  Listen to that noise.  The noise of complaints is a beacon calling to us as HR professionals.  Our best strategy is not to fight the noise, but to use it to help us understand what next steps to take.

Make the tough calls.

Take the next step.

Optimize.

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