Going round in circles – How to get off the hamster’s wheel

By Mandy Chapman

In a previous blog, we considered how HR teams have become hamsters – running around on a perpetual wheel of fire-fighting. Here, we look at the practical measures you can take to get off the hamster’s wheel and start delivering transformative change.

Your first task should be to identify your current process objectives. The recruitment process is a case in point. Do you want to bring in the best high-performing talent or simply appoint suitable candidates quickly into roles?

By defining and framing that objective, the rest of the process design can then be measured against it. Assuming the last-named goal is the organisation’s true objective, the next stage is to get to the reality of what is going on. In most organisations, there are three different versions of every process: what the business is supposed to be doing, what is documented in the process map, and then the actual reality. Often, your reality will be very different from your optimum plan as bad habits, short-cuts and different employee behaviours creep in to knock you off-course.

You should consider putting in place a four-step improvement process to close the gap between optimum and reality and move away from the hamster’s wheel. First up, you should implement a process of discovery to strip out non-value added activities. That might involve major initiatives; important one-off changes, or small-scale changes around a single process  – recruitment, for example or absence procedures.

The key is to focus on these areas and look to reduce the non-value-add. Alternatively, you might have an issue with how your managers interview, for example, and want to analyse the elements of that process and evaluate them in small digestible chunks, or micro-projects. You should look to discover how issues impact on the business and then undertake root cause analysis into what is causing them.

The second phase is prioritisation. Once the discovery process is complete, you will have access to more data, analysis and information. Here, you need to focus on simplifying; delivering improvements, before identifying quick wins to help the business move forward. In the interview scenario, that could be about giving the interviewer unconscious bias tuning, for example.

Such measures should be quick to achieve and help eliminate some demands coming into HR teams. You should plan the rest in manageable chunks. Quarterly sprints may be preferable to big one-off projects as they enable HR to get the organisation used to dynamic continuous change.

The third step is designing the processes that need to be in place in the organisation. To take the example of candidate interviews once again, if your recruitment process is too manual and there is a lot of duplicate data being entered into different places or if your interview styles are not effective and the wrong people are being recruited, then processes can be designed to specifically address these problems. Once you know what the future should look like, the final step is making that change happen.

That is all about taking your people with you and gaining buy-in for new ways of working. You will need to continuously communicate and review processes. You’ll also need regular spot-checks to ensure the process still works for employees, HR teams and senior managers.

If you can implement a concerted improvement process of this kind; execute it properly and make change happen you’ll be well-placed to move forward, get off the hamster’s wheel and start taking proactive steps to change HR for the better today.