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In search of Simplicity (in HR!)

It has been 6 months now from my last post. July was approaching fast and I had to think up of an interesting subject to pen my thoughts for my third post. And the mind rushed back to my B School days in mid 80s. We had plenty of books around Management that had hit the market in those days and one that stood out for me was “In search of Excellence” by Tom Peters & Robert H Waterman Jr. The book consisted stories of some reputed companies that had done exceedingly well globally over a period of time. The “search” thought pushed me to look around the prevalent practices in the world of HR. And the central theme that came to my mind was around simplification of HR. Read on!

  • Simplify the job ad (advertisement). Gone are the days when there were lengthy job descriptions in an ad. In the online world that we live in, a job ad needs to stand out and get the eyeballs. How do we make it less text and yet convey the requirement is where the trick will lie. Some of the new age companies bring out some brilliant ads that have colour, graphics and then the text, in that order. Let each one of them convey the job specs.
  • Simplify the CV. Almost all career story can be articulated in the most minimalistic manner. During my job hunting days, I wouldn’t have more than a 2 page CV. And now, as an entrepreneur I have got my profile down to one page. A CV is about brevity. Since the meat lies in the conversation that will follow around it during the interview. Capture the key highlights of each position you worked for and you will get it all in 2 pages.
  • Simplify the interview. While there is simplification required at the interview end, the interviewers need some introspection too. I have been witness to folks who love to listen to their voice and who simply hog the entire conversation talking about themselves. I have always believed the interview process is more about the interview rather than the interviewer. Having said that, it is equally important to keep the whole dialogue very focused and time bound. An hour is the outside margin for an interview if an experienced candidate is being met while a 15 minute for anyone with lesser experience should be enough to asses.
  • Simplify meetings. I have seen some business managers doing a great job of a business review. They are able to do it very smartly within an hour. As HR folks, we need to learn from them. Any meeting that we have called for, should stay away from digression and stay focused on the topic being discussed. An hour is a long time and if we have measured discussions, a lot can be achieved in those 60 minutes.
  • Simplify performance review. In many organizations this is an annual exercise and invariably it ends up into a lengthy discussion since through the year the reporting manager and the team member never spoke about performance formally. To top it all, the format is some 6-7 pages with information that could easily be covered in one page or maximum two pages. If the HR ensures regular and ongoing performance feedback through the year, the annual ritual could be wrapped in 30 minutes. One should aim for that. And yes, the bell curve has run its shelf life. Move on from it!
  • Simplify learning. With the businesses caught up with stiff deadlines, how do we get the teams to undergo quick learning? That’s the big question. The 70-20-10 principle works the best here. Gone are the days for long sessions. Taking out team members for 2-3 days workshops is increasingly becoming an overkill. With the workforce being so well informed these days, short interactive sessions of not more than 2 hours serve the purpose. Do them more often but keep them short. It should be more like picking up that glass of water while on a marathon run. You don’t stop to pick it up. You do it on the move!
  •  Simplify the deck. How many times has a speaker put you off in the very first 2 minutes? I am sure quite many times. The trick in having a high impact deck is to make it as purposeful as it can be. Each slide should have a takeaway. At times I have seen HR making presentations with slides full of text. And then the worst thing they do is to read each word from it. Presentations need to be smartly done. And it is very critical to keep the audience in mind. Each eye contact will indicate to you whether the participants are with you or not.
  • Simplify benchmark. I have been averse to voluminous benchmarking reports from my early days in HR. Nothing against the folks who put them together. But in current times, these need to shrink to a maximum of a 20-page report with a 2-page executive summary. The charts need to be the most relevant ones. And the content in crisp paragraphs. State the facts and infer in the best possible manner. That would be a delight.
  • Simplify engagement. The attention span of people is disappearing very fast. And so is the patience. Any engagement related activity that we undertake should be focused and designed keeping the end in mind. Do shorter engagement sessions but do more often. With technology playing a huge role, lot of engagement can go online or on mobile. The latter the better since the penetration can be phenomenal. But do keep the face to face engagement alive too!
  • Simplify exit. So many of us in HR have this interesting habit of getting exit interview forms filled by team members who are on their way out and happily filing them away. We never ever take a look at the data nor do we share them with the leadership. I believe this is a very critical process and it needs to be done in a very simple manner. One page format with a half an hour chat should be a good practice. In today’s world, it is easy to stay in touch with folks who have moved on and yet wish to keep in touch. Build the alumni!

Hope the above 10 take aways help you out in streamlining some of the HR processes. Do appreciate that the businesses are stressed out. As a key partner, let us not further complicate things for them. It is time to listen to them and deliver only that is required. Get away from the habit of doing a tick mark activity. Avoid interventions that sound good to us as HR. Rather execute interventions that have an immediate impact on the business. Take a hard look at your current HR practices and dispassionately revisit each one of them. If they are not adding value in their current form, simplify them! All the best!

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