How HR Can Succeed in Doing More by Actually Doing Less

You know Jim Collins, the Good to Great guy? He has another book called How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In.

This isn’t a book review, or for that matter, an endorsement of this book. I will say that Jim brings up one very interesting concept in this book on why companies, organizations, departments, fail.

It’s something that we do constantly within HR, and most of us would never view it as something that would actually be hurting our organization. Yes, we do too much!

Getting out of the empire building mindset

This overriding pursuit “to do more” has some drastic consequences.

I will tell my HR brothers and sisters, if you never worked in a large HR/Talent shop,  you might understand where I’m going with this. That’s because small to medium sized HR shops usually are working their tails off just to keep their heads above water.

Large HR/Talent shops are a little like the game Monopoly. You’re either making yourself larger in some way or another, or you’re going through a “right-sizing” so you can start over at making yourself larger again! Within that mentality comes this “do more” cycle.

Most large HR shops don’t try to reduce their work because that goes against this empire building mindset. They try and come up with more programs, more projects, more ways to measure, more ways to ensure an employee is engaged, more ways to check the checklist to ensure compliance, more ways to, well, show that you’re doing more than the other guy/gal.

If you aren’t creating more, you’re aren’t valuable and showing your worth. No one ever got promoted in HR for eliminating programs, as the saying goes!

How to create more by doing less

Here’s the other way to do HR what 90 percent of HR/Talent Pros don’t do:

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  1. Eliminate any HR program/project that doesn’t save employee’s time (not your HR department, but the time of the actual employee). Remember that new Open Enrollment process you put in to eliminate all of that data entry by your department? It now takes employees 25 minutes to sign up for benefits vs. five (5) minutes before, and that additional 20 minutes per person times the number of employees you have just cost your company a ton of time – which means money in the real world.
  2. Develop a talent management process that works for your hiring managers, not one that makes your feel good about yourself. That five (5) page annual review sure looks great, but it’s a pain in the ass for your hiring managers, and the reality is the employees aren’t getting any more feedback. Stop that.
  3. Stop designing processes around gaining 100 percent compliance and start designing processes so simple you’ll have 99 percent compliance (which is more than you should hope for).

Doing less HR is actually harder than doing more HR! It seems like that should be the opposite, but it’s not.

A foreign concept to most HR pros

Doing less means you have to really think strategically about what your function should be delivering, and what it shouldn’t. It means you move some things out of your department that never should have been there in the first place, but “we’re in HR and we’re suppose to do whatever we can to help.

No, you shouldn’t. You’re in HR – you should deliver great HR that is simple and easy to understand.

For most HR/Talent Pros that I know, this concept of doing less goes against every bone in their body. Great HR isn’t about doing more, it’s about doing the least amount possible to deliver the services that are needed for your organization to have great people.

That is really hard to do without adding more for people to do!

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


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