So the holiday season is over, everyone is back to work and after a quiet period for most, the pressure is starting to ramp up.
HR teams often find themselves particularly busy at the start of the Autumn. There’s a definite ‘new term’ feel in the air. Managers are returning from their holidays re-energised and are knocking on HR’s door, keen to pursue new people-related initiatives or tackle performance issues in their team.
It’s often a peak period for recruitment and job moves too, as people who’ve had a chance to reflect on their careers over the summer decide to seek new opportunities either within or outside the business.
So what can HR people do to manage the increasing demands on their time and make sure healthy work pressure doesn’t tip over into unmanageable stress?
Spot the signs early
Keep an eye on colleagues who you think may be beginning to show signs of stress. People who are struggling with their workload may be taking more time off sick than usual, for example, or may be demonstrating uncharacteristic behaviour, such as getting angry or upset over seemingly trivial things. A lack of interest in personal appearance or poor time-keeping are other signs to look out for. Don’t let the problem escalate – express concern, offer support, and talk about what can be done to lessen the load.
Create a supportive atmosphere
It’s important to create an environment where people feel it’s OK to say if they’re not coping. If people feel they have the support and understanding of their colleagues, they are much less likely to have a melt-down. Regular team meetings can provide a forum where everyone can talk about what’s on their plate, what deadlines are looming and whether their task list is realistic. Keep the lines of communication open so the team can support each other, look at how work can best be distributed, and how HR can manage the expectations being put upon them.
Let technology take the strain
Hours of HR time are wasted administering routine tasks that can so easily be automated. Thanks to advances in technology and the advent of the Cloud, costs have come down significantly and sophisticated HR software is now within reach of the smallest organisation. The latest systems can help HR record and track annual leave and sickness absence, manage performance effectively, and generate the up-to-the minute data senior management need to inform business decisions. New generation systems also typically offer self-service, giving employees the ability to access and update their own information and allowing managers to lead their teams more effectively. Freed from the burden of unnecessary admin, HR people can concentrate on the more strategic aspects of their role and add real value to the business.
Invest in the HR team’s own development
People who feel equipped to do their job are less likely to be anxious and more able to cope with the challenges being thrown at them. It’s not just about technical skills, but also about helping people improve their ability to manage their workload, influence others, bounce back from set-backs, and build resilience. HR people are often so busy managing other people’s development that they forget to pay attention to their own. So make sure the HR team are also having regular formal appraisals and informal performance conversations where people can identify their development needs and discuss how best to build their competency levels.
HR people are concerned with the health and well-being of the workforce – but often don’t walk their own talk. How often is your HR team taking work home or finding itself the last to leave the building? HR people need to role-model the behaviours they want to encourage within the business by maintaining a healthy work-life balance themselves. Think about how flexible working might help the team manage the workload more effectively, make a point of getting away from the desk at lunch-time, and take part in any well-being initiatives (gym membership, lunchtime walks, healthy eating advice) that may be on offer to the rest of the business.
Is your HR team feeling the strain? Let us know how you manage to cope with a busy workload and conflicting demands