Burnout rates among HR professionals are higher than ever. And, with a remit that’s expanded exponentially over the past few years, it’s no mystery as to why.

In fact, since HR’s evolution into a key strategic business partner, the day-to-day demands of the role have increased tenfold. So, for small or standalone HR teams, it’s safe to say the pressure is piled high.

Why do HR professionals need to know about effective delegation?

When HR struggles, so too does the rest of an organisation. And, as a department that’s historically one of the smallest within a business, it’s unsurprising that the workload can become overwhelming fast. This statement can be backed up with research revealing that a huge 98% of HR professionals reporting they’d experienced burnout in 2022.

The often reactive nature of HR can also be tough. Tasks such as responding to day-to-day issues and disputes in real-time can make it difficult to find focus on more strategic and value-added activities. Pair this with implementing various people strategies, carrying out administrative duties, and taking charge of an organisation’s data protection and security measures, and it quickly becomes difficult to find time to breathe.

Despite all of that, delegating tasks is often far easier said than done. So, where should HR leaders look to start when it comes to delegating effectively?

1. Be selective about the tasks you take on

Be it planning a company social event or picking up miscellaneous business admin, it’s no secret that HR are often passed tasks that are, put simply, not always within their remit of responsibility.

Unfortunately, becoming the ‘yes man’ of an organisation often means time is taken away from the key strategic responsibilities that only HR can carry out. As such, always be conscious of your HR team’s bandwidth; both with regards to the time they have available, and the mental capacity they’re able to take on.

If you’re finding your HR team is regularly overwhelmed by responsibilities, it’s time to consider which tasks need to take priority. Of those remaining, could any be passed to other teams or senior leaders, or those outside the department, e.g. a social committee?

2. Explore opportunities for automation

If a task can’t be outsourced or otherwise passed on, there’s a good chance it could still be automated. Modern HR systems offer several routes through which to automate routine or repetitive admin tasks, freeing up time for your HR team to focus on more value-added responsibilities and projects.

As an example, form builder tools and onboarding features – such as those in Cezanne HR – allow users to create templates for frequently used forms, checklists, and notifications. Once set up, these pre-built templates can be automatically sent out to employees with minimal time and effort from your HR team.

HR portals and workspaces can also reduce the workload by making it easier for employees to access important resources, tools, and policies as and when they’re needed, rather than going through HR. As VisionDirect’s HR Manager, Christine North, told us recently…

“My Operations HR Business Partner has set a workspace up for managers that contains all the documents and support information they may need. Things like disciplinary letter templates, guidance on how to deal with grievances… all the stuff managers may need but might not necessarily deal with in their usual day-to-day operations.

It means managers don’t have to approach HR to ask how to do things or where to find things; it’s all on the workspace and it’s proven to be a great way to share information.”

Read the full case study here.

What’s more, ISO-27001-certified HR systems make it easier for people professionals to hand over the burden of data privacy and protection. Managed payroll services can also remove work from HR’s plate – both excellent ways to successfully outsource more administrative tasks away from a busy HR team.

3. Refine your communication

When it comes to effective delegation as a business leader, it can be easy to justify ‘holding on’ to things; be it on account of time, efficiency, or even the quality to which a task needs be completed. After all, if it’s a task you’re familiar with, it should be quicker to do it yourself than to mentor or train another team member… right?

However, that way of thinking can amount to an abundance of unfinished tasks left cast aside indefinitely. As such, it’s important to remain conscious of how tasks are communicated to other team members, and ensure the support needed for success is put in place from the get-go. Some questions to keep in mind could be:

  • What is the ‘end goal’ of the task?
  • Is there a deadline or goalpost that needs to be met?
  • Are any additional resources or tools needed for the task’s completion?
  • Would it be helpful or appropriate to have a ‘check-in’ conversation partway through the task’s completion?

Catherine Wilson, in her talk for this year’s Learning at Work Week, offers a suggestion on how delegated tasks can be organised. This includes tasks that a team leader manages alone, something a team member should consult the manager on before completing, something that they should inform a team leader on after the fact, or a task that needs no managerial input at all.

4. Treat delegation as a development opportunity

Over the past few years, it’s been frequently reported that training and development opportunities can make or break an employee’s perspective of their employer. In fact, our recent report into the state of employee satisfaction found a lack of development opportunities to be one of the top contributing factors to employee dissatisfaction in the UK.

Treating effective delegation as an opportunity for professional development, then, can ensure that a redistribution of responsibilities benefits everybody involved. Identify – using previous performance reviews, verbal feedback, or simple day-to-day observation – the skills and goals that team members either already possess or are aiming to develop, and use this to inform the way tasks are delegated.

Distributing responsibilities with learning and development goals in mind ensures two things. Firstly,  that your HR team is utilising their time to benefit the business. And secondly, that they can accelerate their own professional development. Do bear in mind, however, that this may necessitate some time for adjustment.

Chloe Turner author image

Chloe Turner

Graduating from the University of South Wales, Chloe is an experienced content marketing manager who's worked across the HR and legal business sectors.