HR Advisors Conference Blog

Further thoughts from the conference or about the challenges of being in an HR Advisory role.

HR Superhero Files #2: How does a superhero do everything?

Talking to lots of HR people about our training events, the biggest issue seems to be that we’re all too busy with operational work to take any time out for our own development. Even when we’re going to just a 2 hour seminar, a manager wants to meet with us urgently about a disciplinary issue – so we stay and help them – missing out on our own learning. It also means we’re too busy to do any of the proactive positive HR that would fix a lot of the reactionary issues we’re spending time on.

Over the last few years I’ve discovered the following:

  • Much of the time those urgent issues that managers need to meet with us immediately about are not that urgent at all or are only urgent because the manager has made them that way. I remember a manager calling me and saying he urgently needed to meet about a performance issue that afternoon because he wanted to issue a PIP tomorrow as he’d had enough. I asked him how long he’d had performance concerns for. He told me the first issues had started 7 months before but he’d hoped they go away. Now they were frustrating him so much he had to do something about it!!
  • When we rush and help a manager straight away, it doesn’t actually teach them to consider the issue. With the problem above I asked him if he had details of what the issues were. He could tell me what they were but he had only vague details to back them up. I explained that to be fair to the employee we needed to have examples to give them and why didn’t he spend some time this afternoon putting those together and I would meet with him tomorrow. When we then met he was in a much better frame of mind, was more objective and had some specifics and saw that rushing it wasn’t a good idea.
  • We don’t actually appear that credible if we rush to meet with managers. Because we’re then so busy running from one thing to another, we may not spend the time needed to ask the right questions and therefore not deliver the right advice. I’ve also found that when you always say yes to a manager needing to see you immediately, they will expect you to always be available immediately. With one client we had, I’d done this and it ended up he would call me at 7pm at night to write a restructuring proposal for 9am the next morning. At that point I realised that responding to his requests immediately had taught him that I would turn things around without any notice. It wasn’t a good situation for anyone.
  • When we’re working in such a reactive way, we never get time to focus on our own development or focus on any of the proactive HR things that we should be.

Superheroes don’t seem to have this problem of being ‘too busy’. I think it’s because superheroes don’t try and rescue absolutely everyone. They focus on those who need it and they also spend time honing their superhero powers. They don’t do everything – they do the right things.

So how can you stop being so busy with HR operational work too & leave time for development and being proactive?

  1. Push back. Don’t say yes to things immediately or to everything. Find a way to say no politely. I find a couple of methods work. The first is to get them to do something for you like asking the manager to prepare some specifics about the performance issue, or to check the policy/IEA and check where they think the issues are. Alternatively saying when you’ve got time instead of saying no. For example “Oh no, those performance issues sound awful. I’ve got some time tomorrow morning or Thursday afternoon I can come and meet with you to go through it. Which time works for you?” Lastly if you’re being asked to take on something you don’t have time for, ask “I’m working on a few other things at the moment. Is there anyone else who could help? Or I do have some time later in the week. Could I help with it then?”
  2. Schedule time in your day where you deal just with reactionary issues. You’ll get through many more emails if you spend 45 minutes three or four times a day blitzing them, rather than trying to respond all day.
  3. Work in concentrated blocks of 45 minutes with 10 – 15 minutes breaks. Use these breaks to have a walking meeting, plan out your priorities, read an article or catch up with your team.

All of this should mean that you can put some time in your diary for your own development. Even if it’s just 30 minutes to go onto LinkedIn and read some articles or look in your HR groups or to take that stack of HR magazines to a meeting room and read through them!

You may even find that suddenly, rather than looking at something like our HR Advisors conference and knowing you’ll never be able to take 2 days away from work – you’ll have trained your managers and tamed your workload so that you can develop yourself into a true HR superhero (not to mention you’ll then be able to come along to the conference too!).


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This entry was posted on March 15, 2015 by in Operational v Strategic HR Work and tagged , .

Thorough | Objective | Unbiased

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