5 HR habits to ditch this year

To close out 2016, we asked HR expert Jason Lauritsen to contribute five posts spotlighting bad habits HR professionals should ditch. Let’s make it a 2017 resolution for HR departments.

Jason pulled no punches and spoke truth to an industry in a state of flux. In order for HR to establish its role within an organization, Jason suggests looking at other departments for innovation and rethinking how to approach classic HR situations.

If you have the time, we highly recommend reading through each guest post because those learnings will prove invaluable going into the new year.

For those in a time crunch, we summarized his work to highlight some particularly important points.

Stop Saying No

Time management proponents preach the benefits of saying no. But Jason recommends that HR professionals get into the habit of saying yes. No matter how ridiculous the request, suppress the urge to respond with “no.”

Turns out that saying “I can help” instead and then challenging managers to explain the problem is more rewarding. This puts the onus on the manager to validate their ask, and thereby weeds out problems the managers could solve themselves.

This is a hack Jason learned from developers, who like HR also receive a lot of time-wasting requests. But instead of blocking, Jason noticed how devs say yes and then put the ownership back on the manager to clarify what they’re trying to accomplish.

It sounds simple, but this approach can ensure HR is viewed more as an enabler, and less as an obstacle.

Read the full post


Stop enabling bad managers

Ever get the feeling that your HR department is constantly putting out fires? Stop allowing poor managerial decisions to monopolize your department’s time and resources.

Jason summed this up perfectly when he compared HR to the Wolf in the popular film Pulp Fiction. The Wolf, played by Harvey Keitel, is called in to clean up a particularly bloody mess created by Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta’s characters, which he accomplishes with surprising expediency and skill.

HR should, of course, be capable of cleaning up the occasional mess, but managers also need to assume responsibility for their actions, instead of directing HR to fix the problem. HR professionals can change this tendency by clearly outlining their role to managers, and by coaching managers through problems with staff.

Cleaners make for cool characters in movies, but it’s stressful work in real life. Some problems are more easily solved through better communication.

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Stop defending broken practices

Forget the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In 2017, HR professionals need to take a critical look at all their practices and embrace a culture of innovation. Jason noted the antiquated way managers used to approach performance evaluations. Instead of calling it what it was, a broken process, managers would slog through them because that was the expectation.

We live in a constant state of change. If HR fails to adapt, the organization can suffer in the long term. An unresolved conflict can lead to unhappy employees, and unhappy employees can become former employees.

To develop a more innovative way of thinking, Jason recommends delving into the fields of psychology, brain science, sociology and behavioral economics. So in short: question everything, try new things, iterate, and don’t feel obligated to a process that doesn’t make sense.

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Stop playing small

In his fourth blog for us, Jason touched on the topic of taking initiative and solidifying HR as leaders within the organization.

Far too long HR professionals have been viewed as behind-the-scenes administrators. So how do you position yourself as an expert?

Instead of focusing on collecting certifications, HR professional should focus their learning and development in two areas: becoming experts in human motivation and performance, and understanding the ins-and-outs of your company’s industry.

Here are two book recommendations from Jason to get you up to speed: Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott and Influencer by Grenny and Patterson.

Also, remember that nearly every decision within an organization affects the people working there. So speak up and be convincing, because it’s not enough for HR to be at the table if they’re not providing their expertise. Jason credited the sales training earlier in his career for giving him the ability to drive change and be an influencer within the organization.

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Stop treating technology as the solution

A tool is but an extension of a man’s hand, and a machine is but a complex tool. – Henry Ward Beecher

In his final post of 2016, Jason suggested that technology is simply not the magic bullet HR professionals believe it to be.

To support his conclusion, Jason spoke to his belief that new, expensive golf clubs would cure his ailing golf game. But as anyone who’s tried their hand at golf knows, fancy clubs can’t solve the inherent problems in the golf swing.

An HR professional in 2017 needs to first understand the problem they want the technology to solve before identifying how the technology should be used. Finally, ask yourself, how capable is the person using the technology? Simply put, a manager with poor interpersonal skills will struggle to have effective 1:1 meetings, no matter how comprehensive the software being used.

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What other HR habits do you feel need purging in 2017? Let us know on Twitter at @smallimprove or post your thoughts in the comments.

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