The Biggest Time Sucks for HR Pros (and Time Management Strategies to Overcome Them)
We know that as HR professionals, you have a lot on your plate. Payroll and time cards, recruiting, trainings, employee reviews, managing PTO, keeping up on benefits and policies and compliances…all of it falls under the HR umbrella, chipping away at the precious hours in the work day.
It’s not easy to juggle all these tasks while also finding the time to invest in yourself and the aspects of your job you’d like to spend more time on. Luckily, there are a handful of time management strategies that can help you stay on top of your game, even when time-consuming extras threaten to derail your day. The following time management tips will help you organize, prioritize, and streamline responsibilities so your workload is more manageable and enjoyable.
The Most Time-Consuming HR Responsibilities
Before we get to the time management strategies, let’s survey the scene and see which areas of HR take up the most time, as well as the areas that don’t get enough attention.
In January 2015, HR.com conducted a study
that asked HR professionals to choose the five tasks from a list of 10 that were the most time consuming. The top three results were:
- Employee management: 71% of respondents felt things such as answering questions, resolving conflicts, disciplining, and rewarding employees consumed most of their time
- Company policies and compliance: 54% felt dealing with items like health-benefit laws, 401Ks, unemployment insurance, worker’s comp, and policies was second-most time consuming
- Recruiting: 42% felt recruiting and all the elements that go along with it (job fairs, reviewing resumes, interviewing, checking references, background checks) was third-most time consuming
Given that more than 70% of respondents ranked employee management as their top frustration, it’s not surprising that 82% of HR professionals also felt that it’s the responsibility of management, not them, to keep employees productive; 65% said they also think it’s management’s job to keep employees happy.
Where HR Professionals Would Prefer to Spend More Time
The same study
that asked HR professionals to identify the tasks that were most time consuming also asked them to share areas in which they would prefer to spend more time. The top results were:
- Professional development: 54% said that personal career development would help them be more knowledgeable and helpful for the rest of the company
- Training: 47% said spending more time training new employees and providing ongoing development training for employees and managers would be beneficial
- Initiatives to improve their company’s culture: 37% ranked this as a valuable area
So how can an HR professional make room for more of these undertakings while still dealing with the more frustrating tasks? That’s where time management skills come into play.
Top 5 Time Management Tips for HR Professionals
We’ve already established that finding the time to accomplish all the tasks required of an HR professional is challenging, especially when the most time consuming responsibilities take away from more preferable areas of growth. But it’s not impossible.
To help you get the most of your workday, we’ve outlined five time management strategies that will help you do it all — and then some.
- Stay organized. Make to-do lists (either on paper or using digital tools like Trello), mark meetings and deadlines on a calendar, and be aware of events that are taking place later in the day, week, and month. Checking off items from a list and bundling routine tasks so you can tackle them all at once helps streamline processes and keeps you on track.
Another way to stay organized is to prioritize tasks: “A” tasks have immediate deadlines, “B” tasks need to be done by next week, and “C” tasks are small things, like checking email. This way, you can spend the bulk of your time on the most important items without wasting time worrying about things that can be left for later.
- Set aside uninterrupted blocks of time to work. Give yourself chunks of time — 30, 60, 90 minutes — during which you close the door, sign out of email, and put your phone on silent. Use the time to focus on your task at hand, and only that.
- Make and take short cuts. Write down instructions for procedures that take multiple steps. This guarantees you won’t waste time trying to find or remember the right order for a task. It also allows you to delegate tasks to others.
Another short cut: Develop template responses directly in your email client for common inquiries.
- Take a break. This might seem counterintuitive, but taking brief breaks from tasks can dramatically improve one’s ability to focus for longer periods of time. Go for a walk, eat lunch away from your desk, walk to a coworker’s cubicle instead of emailing them — anything to break up the monotony of a task.
- Learn to say no to unessential tasks and delegate. Stick to your to-do and priority lists. Identify jobs that you might normally agree to do that can be done by others and pass them on to someone else. This will help you stay focused, avoid being overwhelmed, and free up time to get to the more important tasks on your list.
Learning and implementing new time management skills takes, well, time. With all the responsibilities already expected of HR professionals — including those already listed, as well as things like navigating employment law and determining if things like non-compete agreements are even enforceable — we know change isn’t always a welcome suggestion. But starting to make small changes now can lead to big relief later, which will help you, your employees, and your work environment function more smoothly.