Monday, April 17, 2017

Let's Talk Systems

I am a big proponent for setting up systems. For many reasons.

HR is an interruption-rich environment. If you have never worked in HR, it can be a madhouse. I find that if I don't have some way to keep track of what needs to be done and where I am in the process, things get forgotten. Just because I was thinking of doing a task or partially done with a task when I am interrupted, my brain translates that to "Done!"

Often, multiple hands touch an action for different purposes. If you're a one-person HR department and do all of the HR and payroll yourself, maybe not so much. But for many of us, different people do different things. Take for example a new hire. Someone has to report the person as starting to work. Someone has to ensure the I-9 gets done. Someone needs to ensure the new person is properly set up in the HRIS (and possibly payroll, if the system is not the same.) Someone has to ensure they are scheduled for all of their orientation/new hire training. Someone has to set up their personnel file. Someone has to take care of sending out the benefits paperwork,....and so on. You get the point. How do you track whether everyone with an action to take has indeed gotten the information they need and completed their tasks?

People leave. Employees leave. They quit, you fire them, they die. Sounds a little hard-nosed., but face it--people leave. All of these have happened in my department. Sometimes with little or no notice. Does anyone know how to do their job? Can anyone pick up and at least fumble through the actions that need to be done?

We forget. Some actions in HR need to be done only once a year. Do you remember to do them? Can you remember how? Do you know where to get the information you need?

For these reasons and more, you need to set up systems. That means you have to sit down the think out all of the steps you take, who does what, when they need to be done, etc. There is nothing wrong with manual systems. I used them for years and they work fine. I have to admit though, I like to automate as much as possible. Automated systems can be easier to share as well.

So what are some of the systems we need?
- Continuity "binders." You may not use binders anymore--electronic files work. The idea is to  have everything you need in one place so that if someone comes into the job knowing nothing, they can fumble through. I learned this one in the military. People turn over all the time, so this is a great way to ensure continuity when there is no time for training. These should contain a process flowchart and/or checklist, who to call, links to references, where to find the documents, forms and manuals needed, and an FAQ.
- Checklists. Yes, I mentioned them in the last paragraph. If you don't feel like you need something as complete as a continuity binder, at least make a checklist. It might be my little military mind, but checklists are our friends. But only if we use them. Did you do this? Who did it? When? It's all right there.
- Task lists. I mean a list of every important task in your department. That way, you can easily see if you have people who are lined up to do all of them and that you have continuity documents for all of them. This will also allow you to set up a task reminder system.
- Task reminder system. If you don't do a task every day, it's a good idea to have a reminder set up, with an early reminder to start gathering information in advance. The year goes by with the speed of light and annual tasks come up before you know it. Time for the annual handbook review. Check. Time to send out the Medicate Part D Notices. Check. Gee, has it already been 15 days for that FMLA certification? What's going on with that?
- Cross training. Look at that master task list. Does every task have a primary and an alternate person assigned? If it's a critical task, maybe even a back up for the back up. I'm just saying...stuff happens. The primary of course, is the person who does the job every day. The backup should at least have been trained on the task and can do it, with the assistance of the continuity book.
- Quality Control. Even if you have a process, you need a way to check it. I had one person who would be the last person to receive the checklists back on a new hire. Her job was to review the checklist to be sure every single task was signed off and to do a spot check to be sure. She also went hunting for checklists if they weren't returned to her in a couple of days of hire. None of these tools do a thing for you, if they aren't used.

If you will take the time to set up (and keep current) systematic processes in HR (and the rest of your company), your work life will be so much easier and you'll be in better shape on compliance.

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