HR: Keep It Simple

Keep It Simple
Illustration: Studio Fee Overbeeke

HR tends to make things too complicated.

Four ways to keep it simple in HR.

1. Keep your HR team small

Once upon a time I had the luck to lead an HR top team. A small corporate team with five people. All A-players, with the ability to get high quality work done, and looking at the accomplished results, it looked like the team was a lot bigger. Then I got a new boss. She liked to meet and brainstorm with her team, and therefore I had to spend most of my team in meetings with senior executives (most of the time in nice locations). Often one of the outcomes of these meetings was more work for the corporate HR team.

As I was not longer able to do real work, and as the requests for HR increased, I had to hire three new people into the HR team. Unfortunately, the output of the team did not increase. More time was spent on onboarding the new people, and in meetings with me, where I had to communicate the outcomes of the meetings of the senior team. Team fun decreased, as we were no longer the agile innovative team that got things done.

The morale: Hire A-players (always), keep your team small, and don’t waste too much time in meetings.

2. Invest in HR Tech and other apps

When you have installed the Super HRIS, that contains all the relevant information of your applicants and employees worldwide, that is able to produce concise HR-reports, support you with predictive analytics, drives all the HR work flows such as performance management, talent identification and succession management, you might have dramatically simplified your life.

For most HR teams this is still a dream, and it might be better to invest in some simple and focused solutions that make your life easier. (read: The battle of the apps, and The HR Tech Catalogue).

There are numerous apps that can help you to simplify your personal life. My personal top 3: Evernote (extended memory), Headspace (Gym membership for the mind) and Asana (task manager).

3. Stay close to the most urgent business issues

Strategy is more about today than about the future.
What are the most burning business issues that need to be tackled today? Do we have the right people leading our most important strategic programs? Is our top talent thrilled by the opportunities they are working on. How can we increase our capabilities in the Middle East?

Often HR and management are somewhat afraid to tackle the most burning issues, and this is where delaying tactics come in handy.
We need more evidence before we can replace manager A.
Even better: we need a better performance management system, so that we can better evaluate all managers, including manager A.
We need a talent management system AND a global opportunity system, so that we can match talent with opportunities.
We need a global relocation policy, before we can move people to the Middle East. All good thoughts, but delaying action. Action can often be taken today, and HR should push for action and have no tolerance for delay.

If you focus on the most urgent business issues, your life will be simpler.

4. Stop with most of your meetings

The story is that at Amazon they start meetings with 30 minutes’ silence. During this silence, the participants read a 6-page memo (the ‘meeting narrative’) that was written by the owner of the meeting (a memo, not a PowerPoint presentation). This memo contains the objectives of the meeting and the necessary background, that brings the participants to a level playing field. The Amazon approach has several benefits: the quality of the meetings goes up, and the number of meetings goes down. Less meetings makes your life in HR simpler and easier. You might try the Amazon approach.

With a small team, focusing on the most urgent business issues, real time connected through Slack, so meetings are hardly needed, with an eye on the people dashboard, your life can be so simple….

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