Are you getting the most out of your HR department?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 136,000 HR Manager jobs in the United States in 2016. And why not? Every company over a certain size needs an HR department to handle benefits, compliance, risk, and the inevitable employee relations snafus.

Of course, your department could be doing so much more. And if your mind draws a blank (or worse) when you think about HR, then odds are you’re not using your department to its full potential.

What a shame! It’s time to correct this oversight by rethinking and re-directing your HR strategy. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Tip #1:  Do an HR Audit

You have to know what’s wrong before you can make it right. Now’s the time to conduct an in depth analysis of your HR policies and procedures. How effective is your HR department at recruiting, onboarding, and developing talent? Are your employment policies up to date? Are your files organized and in compliance? What kind of reputation does the department enjoy? Is the staff known for efficiency, creative problem solving, accuracy, responsiveness, and follow through? Are there services HR isn’t providing (perhaps because no one has ever asked) that your employees would like? It’s time to find out. An efficient but underused department can probably conduct its own internal audit. However, don’t be afraid to hire a consultant to guide you through this process if that makes sense for your organization. 

Tip #2:  Develop a Work Plan

Develop a plan now to close the biggest gap between desired outcomes and typical outcomes. Maybe your HR team needs expertise they don’t possess and it’s time to invest in training or additional staff. Maybe non-essentials like event planning need to be delegated to some other department. Maybe your team simply needs to be unleashed – that is, given the support and bandwidth to do something great.

Figure out the most important thing you could be doing that you aren’t doing and then give your team the resources to do it. And please, don’t micromanage! A plan is essential to get from here to there, but let your team drive the creation of the plan and don’t hover. That’ll be the quickest way to drive them back underground. 

Tip #3:  Moderate Your Expectations

Here are two HR truisms: (1) The HR department can’t carry the load managers should be carrying and (2) it’s not realistic to think you can change everything at once.

To that first point, your HR department isn’t responsible for managing your staff, and HR can’t create and maintain a desirable workplace culture. Sure, HR has its part to play, but culture starts at the top, and only those holding the carrots and sticks can really enforce change. A good HR department can help you design the carrots and sticks, but you’ve still got to wield them (and responsibly, please).

To that second point, be practical about how much change can occur and over what period. Setting a goal of, say, overhauling your performance review system, developing a managerial training program, implementing a new HRIS, revamping the personnel files, and starting a mentoring program all within six months is probably too ambitious. Make way for your staff to actually succeed at the tasks you assign.

Tip #4: Hire for Keeps

When I peruse the job boards, it’s obvious that employers are becoming more and more discriminating in their requirements for HR professionals. That’s good, because for the longest time it seemed that the prevailing wisdom was that anyone can do HR, and that’s just not true. Like all professions, human resources requires certain knowledge, skills, and abilities. Make sure your new HR hires are up to the task by incorporating behavioral assessments into your hiring process. Better yet, build the team by having everyone take an assessment now. You’ll gain great information about each worker’s motivations and behavioral traits.

Solid, knowledgeable HR staff are value added for every company. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to maximize your staff’s effectiveness to the fullest! Follow these tips to get the most from your HR department.




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Freelance Writer, Editor, and HR Consultant in Philly. You can find more of Crystal's work at: