Many HR practitioners who find themselves working in small or medium-sized companies share a common frustration. They complain that their time is spent playing interference between faulty management practices and disgruntled or entitled employees or pitching in and helping with superfluous administrative and office management functions; neither which drive the employment brand or foster employee engagement.
Research by my firm, Keen Alignment, suggests that over 60% of HR people in small and mid-sized businesses report spending at least 45% of their time playing the role of clean up crew rather than contributing to long term, proactive and strategic initiatives that forward sustainability and momentum in their organization.
The following is a best practice approach to self-discovery and an action plan to take HR from tactical and good to strategic and great. The five easy steps are just the beginning of demonstrating your value as a long term organizational contributor.
1. Get Agreement On the Role
It all starts with alignment. What is the overarching purpose of the HR role and specifically how does HR enable company success? When the business leaders and HR come to agreement on this important question it paves the way for the role to make a real difference in how people impact organizational success.
2. Know Where the Time Goes
Create a matrix of how time is spent in what aspects of HR: What percentage of the month, week or day is spent in in which area of focus. How much time is spent crisis mode? What percentage in administrivia land, and how much in talent management: recruitment, succession planning, organizational development and design, integrating people into the organization, or proactively teaching and coaching managers?
3. Decide Whether to Delegate or Outsource
Weigh out the cost of outsourcing versus handling those non-strategic functions inside. Really look at the opportunity cost of holding on to those functions that do not make or break the business. Is the right solution to hire a junior or administrative level person to administer those administrative processes? Or is it to outsource everything that can be outsourced: payroll, benefits, compensation, benefits, FMLA, etc.? Delegate those tasks that detract from focus on building the organization with the best and creating a winning employment brand and culture.
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4. Inventory Your Own Abilities
Self-evaluate your HR leadership ability. Do you have the skills, beliefs and talents required to operate at a strategic level? What strengths do you posses that empower you? What gaps are present in your mindset, attitudes, beliefs and competencies that are likely to become barriers to your strategic level success?
Tell the truth to yourself about what personal and professional development you need and then dig further and ask yourself if you are actually willing to do the work to be the person that is needed for the organization to excel in the people category.
5. Create a Plan
Build a game plan. Create a 5-year vision for how HR will elevate and accelerate the organization in achieving its goals. Identify the top organizational goals and determine what is needed from HR to enable those goals to come to fruition. Get executive buy-in early about your vision and the big work that needs to be done to get you there. Once you confirm you are on the right track, make certain you address the gaps needing to be filled through identifying the immediate gains required to move forward. Once that is complete build out your 1, 2, and 3-year plan.
In conclusion, transforming how your HR team operates takes courage and commitment. Courage because evaluating what works and does not work and then stepping into the commitment of changing it takes healthy self-esteem, role confidence and persuasion skills. Applying these five easy steps is just the beginning of demonstrating your value as a strategic HR, long-term organizational contributor. Once you identify the weaknesses and remove the constraints, it is up to you to stay the course and make it happen!