Less Firefighting = Better HR
Tim Sackett

By: Tim Sackett on September 1st, 2015

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Less Firefighting = Better HR

HR Operational Efficiency

Est. Read Time: 3 min.

My very first real HR job was working out of Omaha, NE for a regional retailer.  I handled 14 states, 125 locations and about 7,000 employees in my role.  I had another guy just like me who had the other half of the company who helped train me.

What I discovered was this guy never got out of the office. In fact, he rarely got up from his desk as his email and phone were a constant distraction, as you can imagine with the scope of our responsibility!

The crazy part of all of this was we spent most of our day answering the same types of questions.

  • How do I apply for tuition reimbursement?
  • Where do I get a direct deposit form?
  • How do I add my new baby to my insurance? 
  • When am I eligible for vacation?

Day after day, week after week.  All I did in HR was fight fires on a daily basis.


At first, I thought all I have to do is train my managers at these locations on all of these things I handle on a daily basis, then they’ll be able to answer these questions, and I won’t have to. So, we started training managers. And training managers. And training managers. That wasn’t going to work!  Managers come and go, and take that knowledge with them. 

We tried making manager HR manuals.  This manual has everything you’ll ever need to know about HR that your employees might ask in one neat little 567 page three ring binder! Heck, I couldn’t even find answers in it, and it was a pain every single time we changed one thing.  The manual was old the day the managers got it! 

We spent a ton of time to try and solve our problem but always ended up back fighting fires. Answering the same questions over and over. 

Technology has gotten to the point where we should no longer spend most of our time and energy in HR fighting fires.  Technology now allows us to deliver to our employees and hiring managers the answer to almost anything they could ever ask, in an instant. Document management systems. Employee portals and case management systems. All, fight the fires for you.

If you’re still fighting fires on a daily basis with your employees, here are a couple of ways to put out the flames: 

  1. Adopt technology that allows your employees to educate themselves about your policies, procedures, etc. Find a technology that let’s you see what your employees are most searching, to help you better communicate in the future those hot topics. 
  2. Give your employees 24/7 access to this information. Strategically, you want your employees to be able to access this information from home while they are off the clock. 
  3. Use your extra time in HR to continue to improve your process and policy design to be even more effective. 

Fighting fires all day in HR is a quick way to burn out your career.  Find ways to put out the fires and you’ll fall in love all over again with your career in HR! 

See 5 Ways You Can Improve  Employee Satisfaction with HR
See 5 Ways You Can Improve  Employee Satisfaction with HR

About Tim Sackett

I’m a 20 year HR/Recruiting Talent Pro with a Master’s in HR and SPHR certification, currently residing in Lansing, MI. Currently the President at HRU Technical Resources – a $40M IT and Engineering contract staffing firm and RPO. Prior to joining HRU, I was the Director of Employment at Sparrow Health System, Regional HR and Staffing Director with Applebee’s Intl., Retail Health Recruiting Manager and Regional HR Mgr. with ShopKo Stores and Pamida respectively. I’ve split my career half between recruiting and half between HR generalist roles – also split half between the HR vendor community and Corporate America – So, I think I get it from both sides of the desk.