Process improvement—every HR professional’s favorite pastime, right? Maybe not for most of us, but having processes in place will help ensure tasks are completed properly and efficiently and free up time to focus on more strategic items.
Your organization probably has more than a few business processes that could be improved. Here I’ll share my process for improving processes (I know, very meta) and provide some examples of ways to improve processes like recruitment and onboarding.
HR Process Improvement Framework
HR processes encompass a wide range of activities, from recruitment and onboarding to employee development and performance management. To stay competitive and efficient, companies must continuously enhance their HR processes.
I’ve found the biggest hurdle for process improvement is getting started, it can feel like an insurmountable task! Breaking it out into separate steps makes it far more manageable.
Step one - Assess the current situation
It’s difficult to improve something if you don’t fully understand it. This can be time-consuming, I’ll get that out of the way up front, but normally this step only needs to be completed once.
Here you’re assessing your workflows and tasks. You’ll determine what’s documented, who owns it, and when was it last reviewed. This allows you to identify gaps, pain points, and bottlenecks in your processes.
For example, a previous HR department I worked in had a large number of processes that were documented, but we found that they were stored in disparate places and in varying states of currentness.
At the end of this step, you will have an inventory of processes that can be improved.
Step two - Prioritize
You won’t be able to tackle everything at once so it’s important to think critically about what processes you want to work on first.
Perhaps getting a few early, easy wins could free up time to take on the larger projects. Perhaps you have leadership buy-in to undertake a big automation project.
Set clear and specific goals for improvement—these goals should be aligned with the organization's strategic objectives and initiatives.
Take a look at your company’s values and see how you can align your project. My company’s top value is innovation, and we still have some manual HR processes.
Our goal is to create an innovative HR experience that gives our employee population a positive view of their HR function. We were able to obtain executive buy-in for several key automation processes by tethering the projects to our innovation value.
This step is not a one-size-fits-all approach, so you’ll need to decide what works for your organization with the resources you have available.
Step three - Create a game plan
You will want to set a realistic timeline for completion and I advise including several progress checks.
This may involve simplifying workflows, eliminating unnecessary steps, and automating repetitive tasks using HR software or tools (more on this step later).
If you have resources available to help, assigning ownership and responsibility will enable team members to maintain decision-making in their work processes.
This can be a lot to track, and having a project document that everyone can access will help. I like using Sharepoint for these types of projects, but there are many project management tools available.
In my previous example of disparate documentation, we decided to put everything in a central location instead of the silos they were housed in and gave ourselves 6 months to update every document.
This timeline was realistic and achievable for us as a small HR team. We had a brief standing meeting once a month to check our progress, these regular check-ins kept us accountable.
Step four - Continuous improvement
Establish a system for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of HR processes. Facilitate feedback from employees and HR staff to identify any issues or further areas for improvement.
For example, you could send a pulse survey to employees after they contact HR with certain requests for immediate feedback, or send a wishlist survey to your HR team once a year for more comprehensive ideas for improvement.
You can use the feedback and data collected to make continuous refinements to the HR processes.
6 HR Process Improvement Examples
Let’s walk through a few examples of common ways you can improve HR processes.
In your inventory above, you likely identified tasks that are manual and repetitive, such as data entry, appointment scheduling, and sending routine emails.
You can automate these processes using advanced communications software or tools like Zapier, which can integrate different apps to streamline workflows.
And if you can’t automate it, at least standardize it. Develop standardized processes and templates for tasks like performance evaluations, job descriptions, and interview guides. This ensures consistency and reduces the time spent on creating materials from scratch.
Go Digital for Onboarding
Digitize the onboarding process by providing new hires with electronic forms, training modules, and company resources. This can reduce paperwork, save time, and ensure consistency in the onboarding experience of all new employees.
If the recruitment process wasn’t included in your inventory in Step 1, it should be. If you haven't done so already, consider implementing an applicant tracking system (ATS) to manage job postings, applications, and candidate communication.
ATS software can help screen candidates, track their progress, and even help create a hiring pipeline for hard-to-fill roles. Many of these programs can also provide valuable metrics about your hiring process and candidate experience.
Provide self-service options
Employee and manager self-service
Options may already be within your HRIS software for employee and manager self-service.
Utilize them, as they can provide employees with access to update personal information, view pay stubs, request time off, and enroll in benefits. This reduces the HR team's workload and empowers employees to manage their own information.
Manager self-service options within your HRIS is another place to look for process improvements. There may be functions you can easily turn on for managers so they can process routine employee changes on their own, such as making reporting changes and approving time off requests.
Centralized Knowledge Base
Create a centralized repository of HR policies, procedures, FAQs, and resources. This can help employees and managers find answers to their questions without having to contact HR directly. Enabling this repository to be easily searchable and accessible to all employees is key.
There are many intranet options available at a range of costs and efforts. Many HRIS platforms have this feature available, as well.
Electronic Document Management
If you haven’t done so already, begin storing HR documents digitally in a secure system. This makes retrieving and sharing documents and employee data easier, reducing the need for physical paperwork.
Compliance calendar and year-end checklist
I talked a bit about a compliance calendar in a previous article on HR compliance, and I cannot sing its praises enough.
The calendar I use is linked to a shared HR calendar in Outlook, and each item on the calendar is linked to an event on the HR calendar. These “in your face” reminders work well for galvanizing action on compliance.
Leverage a year-end checklist by embedding it in your compliance calendar. As part of my team’s year-end checklist, we review process documentation and perform regular maintenance.
This allows for a cycle of continuous improvement without the heavy lifting of starting from scratch again, as I talked about in Step 4 above.
A Culture of Continuous Improvement
HR process improvement is a natural part of enhancing your human resources function.
By following a structured approach that includes assessment, analysis, redesign, and ongoing monitoring, you can streamline your HR processes, reduce costs, improve employee satisfaction, and ultimately better contribute to the achievement of the organization’s strategic goals.
Embracing a culture of continuous improvement in HR can lead to long-term success in today's dynamic business environment, and provide employees with an effective HR experience.
Some further resources to help you improve your HR department:
- How To Elevate HR As A Strategic Partner Of The Business
- HR Operating Models Of The Future: Evolving HR For The Modern Workplace
- ChatGPT: A Working Guide for HR Professionals
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