We are all subject to processes in our personal and professional lives. It might be completing a form or following a series of steps. The great thing about today’s technology is that it provides the foundation for an intuitive and consistent process. An example would be using our smartphones to make a bank deposit. The app walks us through the proper steps and the results are what we expect.
Employees expect to use the same types of processes in their work life as they do in their personal life. For instance, if I can read a PDF copy of a report on my tablet, then I should be able to read a PDF copy of the employee handbook.
This isn’t to say that processes aren’t important. Processes are necessary but let’s admit that they can slow down productivity. According to an article in FastCompany, U.S. companies have increased the amount of procedures, layers, approvals, etc. by anywhere from 50 to 350 percent over the past 15 years. We have to balance the benefits of order with the downsides of bureaucracy.
Processes are great when they help us maintain order and consistency. They can also help us measure our results. HR departments have an opportunity to update processes and increase agility. They can use the same models for multiple purposes and adopt more of a consumer mindset to solve challenges.
With agility in mind, here are five ways to streamline existing human resources processes:
Ask if the process is necessary.
Let’s face it; sometimes we create processes where they may not need to exist. And when we create new processes, we often fail to examine existing ones for a duplication of effort. Make the first question in the conversation, “What would happen if we don’t create this hr process?” and let the answer guide the conversation.
Don’t create a process to avoid managing and accountability.
When organizations create a process, it should not absolve a manager from their responsibilities. Managers still have to coach and direct employee performance. Processes are also not a substitute for accountability (meaning employees cannot get out of a situation by saying “I’m sorry. Our company policy is ___________.”). Customers will hold the organization accountable for delivering common sense results.
Think about consumerization.
When in doubt, the company should ask themselves, “How would I do this as a customer?” or maybe more importantly, “How would I want to do this as a customer?” Then apply the same principle to the employee experience. Employee self-service is a terrific example. As customers, we can go online to find out basic account information, update our address and phone number, and even look up the answers to commonly asked questions. Employee self-service should do the same thing.
Look for multi-taskers.
Celebrity chef Alton Brown, creator of the Peabody Award-winning Food Network television show “Good Eats”, would remind his viewers to resist the urge to purchase kitchen gadgets that only do one thing. He called them uni-taskers. Instead, buy multi-taskers – products or solutions that do more than one thing. An HR example is onboarding. Not only can onboarding solutions be used for welcoming new hires, they can assist with the offboarding process as well.
Think bigger (or broader) to become more effective.
It’s true some processes are short and serve a valuable purpose. Completing a form could be a good example. But if it’s not considered in the big picture, narrow processes can lead to duplication of efforts. Organizations might want to consider a funnel approach to increase effectiveness. For instance, talent acquisition includes recruiting, orientation, training, onboarding, etc. When looking at the process of completing an application, it’s essential to consider the entire talent acquisition strategy.
Organizations should use the same tools for creating good processes to streamline their existing processes. Communicate effectively by asking good questions and providing timely follow-up. Collaborate with key stakeholders to ensure all points of view are considered and combine processes where practical. Lastly, use creativity to stay focused on the big picture while working through the details.
Creating and managing processes is a regular part of business. But this doesn’t mean that businesses need to have lots of them. It might actually be easier - and better for the business - to work with fewer.
Sharlyn Lauby is the HR Bartender and president of ITM Group Inc., a South Florida based training and human resources consulting firm focused on helping companies retain and engage talent.
Sharlyn sees human resources as a strategic partner - the marketing department for a company’s internal clients rather as administrative. During her 20+ years in the profession, she has earned a reputation for bringing business solutions to reality.
Prior to starting ITM Group, Sharlyn was vice president of human resources for Right Management Consultants, one of the world’s largest organizational consulting firms. She has designed and implemented highly successful programs for employee retention, internal and external customer satisfaction, and leadership development. Publications such as Reuters, The New York Times, ABC News, TODAY, Readers Digest, Men’s Health and The Wall Street Journal have sought out her expertise on topics related to human resources and workplace issues.