HR professionals often find themselves in the unenviable position of facing pressure on multiple sides. Balancing legal and compliance obligations, instructions from business leaders, and feedback and requests from the workforce isn’t easy, and these demands aren’t always aligned.
So, what do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed and you’re not sure where to start? Creating a hierarchy that determines how you prioritise tasks and requests is essential.
What are the must dos?
The tasks that must always remain a priority for HR are those that fall under the heading of ‘legal and compliance’. While every business will have a different appetite for risk, establishing and sticking to at least a baseline for keeping up with legal and compliance related tasks is very important.
In ‘6 Ways Cezanne HR can Improve your Bottom Line’, we discuss how using an HR system can help you stay on top of compliance. Cloud HR software allows you to store important documentation in one easy-to-find place, helps you to record and manage processes, and enables you to provide a record of truth if HR is challenged on any legal or compliance issues.
In addition to using technology, your HR team should be very clear on who is responsible for what in terms of legal and compliance needs. Ensure those given these tasks have the right qualifications to complete them. Don’t delegate to inexperienced staff members – it can cause unnecessary stress and avoidable errors, draining further time from HR resources.
Prioritising the rest…
Once you’ve ensured you’re operating legally and compliantly – and this might not always be the thing that business leaders shout about the loudest, likely assuming it’s a given that this is being looked after – you need to determine the rest of your hierarchy of priorities.
It may be helpful to think about tasks in terms of needs and values. What does the business need HR to do in order to continue functioning?
If payroll is part of your HR function, this should be at the top of your list. If you don’t pay your people, you won’t have a workforce – unless they’re volunteers, people won’t work for long, if at all, for free. So, ‘payroll day’ will always need to take a high priority, and if managers or staff try to pull resource away from this activity, HR need to gently remind them why payroll is important.
HR also needs to think about what their workforce needs from them in order to do their jobs. While HR will get lots of requests, anything that is business critical, like making sure a new starter has an employee record and can actually begin working on their first day is a top priority. An HR system with an onboarding module and checklists makes fulfilling this priority very straightforward. It’s important that HR doesn’t drop the ball on business-critical activities because not only will it stop people from being able to perform their duties, it will also damage HR’s relationship with the business.
With the top HR activities identified, it’s a bit easier for HR to manage the pressure they’re under from the business. Being able to articulate these priorities to senior managers and staff alike should help buffer HR from unreasonable demands. Non-essential requests could then be prioritised according to how aligned they are with the business’ values; and working with your business leaders to regularly align HR time with your organisation’s values should help reduce unwanted pressure on HR.
If, for instance, your business is working towards improving employee engagement, then HR can agree with senior leaders to dedicate HR time to engagement activities and surveys to measure success. Or perhaps your organisation has identified environmental issues as being an area of focus and HR wants to champion that. Whatever values HR chooses to focus on, make sure it’s done in consultation with your business, so everyone respects how HR is spending its time.
Tasks that need to be completed on a regular basis are another consideration when working out your hierarchy of priorities. Annual/half yearly performance reviews are one such example, and they require HR, line manager and staff time. Using a performance module in an HR system can help you manage this process – find out more by reading ‘Why Cezanne HR’s integrated module is your best choice for performance management’.
For the sake of your talent pipelines, you will also want to dedicate some time to talent mapping, understanding what skills you have in your business, and planning how to fill any gaps. While this activity might not have the same urgency as payroll for instance, it’s important for the future health of your business and does also need attention.
HR will always be on the receiving end of demands from all area of the business; it’s part of the nature of the role – HR is there for ‘the people’. But HR professionals need to have confidence in their own expertise and ability to prioritise, so they can explain to the business why certain tasks will always trump others, and provide a solid rationale for a hierarchy of priorities. Being clear about what falls under ‘legal and compliance’ obligations, a business’ core HR needs, the values HR can actively support, and routine HR tasks allows HR professionals to better stand their ground when they’re being pulled in lots of different directions.