LEAN-ing HR for the Future


This weeks guest post is from Tracey Smith of Numerical Insights author of two fantastic books; HR Analytics: The What, Why and How and Strategic Workforce Planning: Guidance & Back-up Plans.

Enjoy Tracey’s LEAN-ing HR for the Future originally published on Numerical Insights.

You’ve heard about LEAN on the factory floor, but how many of you have attempted to LEAN up HR? Are your processes the same as they were 10 years ago? Are you sending out reports because “you have always done so?” It might be time for some LEAN HR.

Lean HR is not a program you run through your company; it’s a way of thinking every day. Without worrying about the technical jargon associated with LEAN, fundamentally, it is the following:

  • How do we do things today?
  • How do we need to do things tomorrow?
  • How do we best migrate from what we have today to what we need tomorrow?

Activities associated with LEAN may be to redefine a process, automate a process or eliminate a process entirely. Take a moment to think about a process in your own HR area which could be improved.

How Not to Do It… 

As a cautionary example of what not to do, consider this. A company’s internal job posting process was manual. Managers submitted internal job postings on paper. Their management chain approved the posting, then senior management and finally HR. The posting was then entered into the online job listings on the company’s intranet. Employees could see the posting and submit an application (also a manual process but that’s a story for another day).

With this process, there was no visibility into the true number of openings and 100% of postings were approved. In an effort to provide visibility and a headcount control mechanism, the HR team decided to automate the process by creating a web-based system into which management would submit their proposed job openings. The goals were to:

  • Eliminate filling in paper requisition forms.
  • Provide visibility into the number of open requisitions.
  • Provide a faster experience for internal customers.
  • Utilize the system as a headcount control mechanism.

The team enlisted the services of the IT department, constructed a system and made it available to the users. Let’s see how they did with their goals.

  • They eliminated the paper forms, but somewhere along the approval process, a member of management decided to have his admin person print out the forms requiring his approval. Not quite paperless.
  • They obtained some visibility into requisitions, but since the system had no reporting capability, not much could be done to summarize what was happening.
  • They managed to speed up certain approvals in the system, however the higher level of management insisted on only approving positions once per week. That means the positions sit idle in the system for up to six days.
  • When I asked a few months later how many positions had been declined in the system, I was told “none.” That means they failed to utilize the system for headcount control.

In summary, what this team did was to automate a bad process instead of reinventing the process to meet its goals.

I hope this example provides some guidance as you think about the future of HR. I also hope that it inspires you to think about your HR processes in a new way.

Tracey Smith

Tracey is the author of “HR Analytics: The What, Why and How” and “Strategic Workforce Planning: Guidance & Back-up Plans.” She holds degrees in Mathematics, Engineering and Business from universities in Canada and the U.S. and has over 20 years of experience in the areas of Human Resources, Supply Chain and Engineering. She was born in the U.K. and has worked in both Canada and the U.S.

Tracey is an independent consultant and her company, Numerical Insights LLC, helps clients in the areas of HR Analytics, Workforce Planning, and HR Process Improvement.

You can find Tracey on the web at:

Web Site: www.numericalinsights.com

Email: publications@numericalinsights.com
Twitter: @ninsights


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