Best Practices in HR

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Lori Kleiman
  April 20, 2018

5 Steps the HR Department of One Can Use to Stop Putting Out Fires and Control the Chaos

One of the biggest challenges as an HR Department of One (DOO) is achieving balance between the tactical and strategic responsibilities of the role. So, how do you stop spending so much time putting out fires and control the chaos that has a tendency to creep in?

5 Tips on How to Stop Putting Out Fires and Control the Chaos

Running your company’s HR as a DOO doesn’t have to be stressful all the time. The key is to control the chaos. The following tips will teach you how to put down the fire extinguishers, set your priorities right, and be more strategic with your time.

1. Prioritize Your HR Activities

The important thing to remember here is not to allow others to set your priorities and create fires in the first place. Just because an employee is at your door wanting information, a form completed, or just time to talk, that doesn’t mean you have to drop everything and serve their needs.

Instead, devise a pyramid of HR activities based on the tactical and strategic. Then take a look at how those activities align with your reality today. You may need to re-prioritize some of these in order to get you to where you want to be. 

2. Align Activities with Leadership Goals

control the chaos

It’s not enough to establish priorities for your activities to serve your own interests. You also have to ensure that the vision you devise for your HR activities aligns with your leadership’s teams goals.  

In other words, your priorities have to focus on the business needs first. This means sometimes accepting that the customer service you provide to employees is essential, but is not always top priority.  

Once you know where the organization is headed, your actions then have to align to meet them. Be sure the fires that you focus on have an element of true urgency to the business and will pose a risk or compliance issue if not dealt with at the moment. Otherwise, consider the proper time and place to address the issue and move on.

3. Follow Time Management Best Practices

One of my favorite time management tips is the example of “Boulders, Rocks, and Pebbles”. If you can define what each of your tasks are, you’ll be able to more effectively make time for them.

Boulders are large projects you have to take care of and should be scheduled into your day. This means being strict about setting time aside for them. If you have to, go to a conference room or work from home. Just be sure that time is secure.  

Rocks are those activities that have to get done and take up decent chunks of your time (like processing payroll).  

Pebbles are the little tasks we have to complete. We can just fill those in when we have time between all the rocks and pebbles.  

4. Develop an Outsourcing Strategy

control the chaos

Even with the most rigorous of time management, we still won’t be able to do it all on our own. This is when you should consider outsourcing help and calling upon a vendor.

Personally, I believe you should outsource as much as you can that isn’t considered “strategic”. Also, look for third parties you trust.

In many of my programs, I speak about the importance of vendor selection. When looking for a vendor be sure that they are coming to the table as part of your team, not just to sell you something. Do they have technology that will simplify working with them? I require all vendors to meet annually to review the agreement and realign who is doing what based on the services I need. The relationship with your vendors should evolve as you get to know one another.  

As far as what you should outsource first? That’s easy: payroll. Any DOO that is doing payroll in-house is missing the amazing functionality of the system going far beyond writing checks and filing taxes.

5. Embrace Technology

Every HR DOO should embrace technology; specifically, make sure your employees use it!

There are certain employees that will need your help, but there are just some tasks they really don’t need your assistance for, like a change of address in benefits or ordering ID cards. Employees can access the system and do that for themselves.

Just make sure to provide great step-by-step instructional guides and have them ready when an employee asks for help. If they can’t get it to work, ask for screenshots of the issue and then tell them what to do. Don’t just give in and do it for them!  

Reports are another thing. Don’t just run reports because you’ve always run them. Use technology to set up reports that drive action and use the data in those reports to send thoughtful recommendations to the leadership team. They often don’t care about the data, so your interpretation and suggestions will be welcome.

Can You Really Make Time to Do It All?

There’s a lot to do when you’re an HR DOO. If you want to have time to get tactical administrative tasks done while still having enough room for (and energy) for strategic HR initiatives, you need to learn to control the chaos.

I have two favorite ways to deal with this: outsourcing and technology. Vendor management is one such solution. Employee-facing technology is essential, too. Not only does it help with the admin, but employees want it.  

Prioritize your tasks, drive people to your systems, and you’ll have time for the strategy!


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