HR Fire Fighters

Do you have an HR function that never gets time to take its fire fighting gear off? Our data suggests HR functions are finding ways to spend more of their time on strategic and advisory issues.

Get involved in cross-functional projects
Participants in our better practice studies are having success in cross-functional projects. One HR manager for example is responsible for all the satisfaction surveys undertaken on the processes and workgroups within their organisation. One took lead role in the process re-engineering project, another sees their role as business partner rather than the HR function and the manager meets weekly with the CEO.
Besides providing stimulating work it gives HR an opportunity to subtly educate their peers about HR issues whilst demonstrating the skills and depths of knowledge that HR professionals have but frequently “hide under the bushels”.

Involve HR in an all-embracing induction cycle
for new staff

Forget the one- or two-day induction programme that makes the organisation and the new employee feel good for the first few weeks. We are talking about longer term cycle that helps the new staff member become more productive. In IT the problem is exacerbated. It is critical that these staff are brought on stream quickly as they do not stay for so long. The issue is to get the staff person on to phase three quickly which often means ensuring new IS recruits get access to senior management during well thought out induction programme.

Take hold of the strategic “high ground”
Do not be like King Harold and give up the high ground to pursue fight at Hastings. There are many strategic issues that need time now. For one, make sure you are knowledgable in the CEO’s interest areas. Wangle more time to spend with the CEO. They want to be more involved in HR, so help them to be involved. Do not just rely on email and reports, take the CEO out for coffee – now.
Some of the strategic issues that have been raised by participants in waymark better practice studies are:
? senior executive management training programmes;
? establishing 360 degree feedback for senior management and key teams;
? involvement in manpower and succession planning;
? involvement in disaster recovery planning;
? involvement in, and in one case ownership of, the strategic plan; and
? staff opinion and culture surveys.

Price your time
Has the HR function worked out what your charge-out rates would be if you want to break even as cost centre? The other day I bumped into one senior team having their weekly management meeting. I found out to my horror that these lasted for over five hours. This could be an interesting debating chamber, but 10 percent of the working week had just evaporated for these hard-working executives.
I wonder if they would have carried on so long if there had been message on the whiteboard – “This meeting is costing us $1000 per hour.” Sometimes it just might be better to concentrate on other issues and let the fires burn themselves out.

Join better practices study
Get real, do not think your networks can bail you out. Half the time they will be deep in the thicket, making fire break. That promised copy of their 360 degree questionnaire will never arrive. Better practice studies can help you more efficiently access and adopt tried and tested practices.

Provide informative HR reporting
HR functions have way of catching up with their accounting colleagues. Little use is made of trend graphs when they are surely the key to understanding the HR issues. Are you monitoring your trends? If not then maybe you should acquire some better practice reporting templates. Imagine trying to fight the vast fires of central USA without accurate weather forecasts.

Measure user satisfaction of the HR team
Yes I know, it’s something that you will do next quarter. Come on, you have said that since you started here. Sound familiar? As Nike would say “Just do it”, it won’t hurt as much as you think. The staff know you put your life on the line to put out the fires. They wouldn’t swap jobs. You will be surprised with the positive feedback you will get with properly worded questionnaire.

Train the HR staff in business process re-engineering techniques
HR should be involved in stimulating the use of continuous improvement, total quality management etc, within the organisation. It is very interesting work, it makes major impact on the bottom line, it makes jobs more interesting and cuts out efficiencies.

Reward good interfaces with HR
We all appreciate recognition, especially when we don’t have to wait for it. Some participants in waymark better practice studies have found some clever methods that work, such as handing out film tickets, meals, etc to staff who have gone the extra mile. One function gives bottle of wine each month to the first complete monthly return they receive. This simple thank you has provided the appropriate environment for timely submissions from management. For example you could use this technique to improve the promptness of performance returns or on HR statistics which are gathered through monthly returns.

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Steps you can take

?take hold of the strategic “high ground”
?involve HR in an all embracing induction cycle
?get involved in cross functional projects
?price your time
?join better practices study
?provide informative HR reporting
?measure “user” satisfaction of the HR team
?train the HR staff in BPR techniques
?reward good interfaces with HR

last words

?make time to market HR to the senior team
?increase HR’s influence over strategic planning
?join better practice study to get access to better practice templates and contacts
?implement at least one improvement to the work environment every three months
?run user satisfaction survey on HR
?set up coffee with the CEO now
?increase the linkage between management and new information systems recruits

David Parmenter is the managing director of waymark solutions limited, Wellington, New Zealand. waymark helps HR functions align themselves with better practice, using better practice templates. Email:[email protected] Website:www.waymark.co.nz

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