Prioritizing HR process improvement initiatives: A step-by-step guide
Ryan Higginson-Scott

By: Ryan Higginson-Scott on November 14th, 2019

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Prioritizing HR process improvement initiatives: A step-by-step guide

HR Operational Efficiency

Est. Read Time: 3 min.

In the world of HR and People Operations, there’s never a shortage of progress to be made when it comes to finding a better way. Continuous Process Improvement through agile and Kaizen methodologies are the way of the world today, and as we constantly design for a better employee experience, it’s no wonder it feels like the end is just the beginning in any given project.


So, with all that has to be done—how do you decide where to begin? 


Gain perspective with a prioritization matrix

Whether you are just diving into a new job or a new organization, or looking to make an impact and change at your current organization, it’s important to give yourself some perspective before you get started. The most effective way to do this is through creating a prioritization matrix and allowing that to inform your roadmap for the year or two ahead.


Sounds a bit intense, doesn’t it? Think of it this way: You want to make sure you spend your time and effort in the right places, and that you’re having the most valuable impact you possibly can. To do that, you’ll need to do a bit of legwork ahead of time.


1. Get input from all corners

It’s natural to follow the squeaky wheel approach. Spend time interviewing stakeholders, listening to their gripes and pain points, and it’s inevitable a few processes or services for which your team is responsible will rise to the top of the heap. But that just helps make sure you show stakeholders you’ve heard them. It doesn’t take into account actual employee sentiment, or opportunity to improve productivity within your HR team. Stakeholder perspective is just one input in creating your prioritization matrix, though it’s certainly an important one, if you need to build yourself some consensus or capital within the organization.


Related article: Want to Improve Your HR Processes? 3 Tips for Managing the  Change


2. Define your project scope 

Before you take the leap, get yourself organized. Think about all of the processes or services your team supports. Define your initial project scope here, carefully. A full HR transformation means you’re bringing everyone to the table and need to fully catalog everything HR does, from daily transactions to annual cycle activities. For a more limited scope defined by an organizational goal or executive remit, keep tight to your plan and sideline any opportunities for scope creep that present themselves. You’ll certainly receive feedback offering ways you could extend the project and improve other areas as well. Put them on your roadmap and keep true to the area you’re focused on for now.


3. Prioritize processes by scope and volume

In categorizing the processes, think in terms of tasks that have a trigger and an action that can be measured to completion. If your remit is around improving onboarding as a program, your process list may include: 1. candidate transition, 2. pre-boarding activities, 3. day 1 orientation, 4. manager enablement. 5. new hire feedback survey, etc..


Each of these processes has an owner, stakeholders, some type of communication or documentation process (all of which should be captured), but they also have a few important factors that will help you prioritize. At the most basic level, consider two parameters to help you generate a four-box: scope and volume. Limited Scope / Low Volume at the bottom left, to Global Scope / High Volume at the top right. 




Adding additional parameters can help justify resource utilization and, in the event that your prioritization doesn’t match that of your key stakeholders, make the argument in support of your plan. You may want to consider the process or service’s impact to compliance and the overall level of effort the process requires today. Then, of course, there’s also the squeaky wheel parameter—stakeholder response. 


Each of these parameters may lead you down a slightly different path with an adjusted prioritization, which is why it’s important to understand your remit and stick closely to it. If your goal is improved productivity rates, then no matter how high the volume and broad the scope, the processes with the lowest level of effort will take a back seat. If you’re preparing the organization for an IPO, the impact to compliance of any given process will likely lead the charge.


Pro tip: It may be valuable to build a more intricate spreadsheet, assigning values to each parameter option (e.g., within Scope, impact to a single location warrants one point, multi-location warrants two, and global or full-company scope warrants 3). Find your resident spreadsheet guru and work together to appropriately sum and weight the values, based on your original goals. 


4. Begin brainstorming

Once you have these processes and parameters of measurement determined, bring the team together for a brainstorming session. While it may be easier to do this in a vacuum, relying on your years of expertise, you only represent one perspective. Representation from leadership, from the employee population, and from your operations team actually performing the functions will help create a more full picture and go a long way to building consensus at the end of the prioritization process.


Now, dive into the teamwork. Discuss each parameter. Leave room for adding additional processes. Let people know they have been heard, but let the team consensus drive—or, if you’re using calculated values, let the math do the work! Not only will you have a great conversation that exposes all participants to a diversity of perspective, but you’ll have your marching orders as an output—for today, and for your roadmap in the future.


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Download the eBook, The Key to Strategic HR: Process Automation
Download the eBook, The Key to Strategic HR: Process Automation

About Ryan Higginson-Scott

Ryan Higginson-Scott is an accomplished innovator in the world of global people operations. With nearly 20 years experience across all HR functions, he has led diverse and award-winning teams in a broad set of industries - including higher education, corporate retail, high tech, biotech/pharma, and hospitality - always focused on enabling a powerful and rewarding employee experience. Balancing the need for process, policy and compliance, with the goals of sustainable growth and agile operational efficiency, Ryan is an advocate for continuous, data-driven feedback, and iteration on all fronts. He has shared his experience through guest contribution to well-known HR blogs and podcasts, and leads employment-related workshops with several area non-profits. He is a believer in HR disruption and a vocal proponent of any technology that seeks to reconsider not only the how, but also the why behind the way we operate in HR. Today, Ryan lives in the Boston area and leads Global HR Operations at Fuze, Inc.