Don’t neglect your own department! The skills you use to help others can be invaluable for maintaining HR effectiveness during the downturn.
1. Determine which functions are indispensable and must be done in-house. Save all functions that help your organization manage its talent—like retention, recruiting, employee relations and coaching. When staff is short and pressure is high, having in-house HR experts to work one-to-one with troubled managers is imperative.
2. Consider outsourcing some HR functions such as workers’ comp and leave-of-absence tracking. Even if your organization has a “no-outsourcing” policy, a temporary shift might prove more efficient and cost effective than doing it yourself.
3. Roll together HR functions so each employee oversees more than one. If one staff member is dedicated to FMLA, try adding another function, such as relocation or leave-of-absence tracking.
4. Lean on metrics if you’re not sure which functions to roll together. How many leave-of-absence reports does the organization process in a year? How many does one person typically handle? If the numbers are high, that might not be a job to combine with another.
5. Practice flexibility. Nobody wants to double-up on work, but doing so could prevent layoffs. Be prepared to change your processes to make them more efficient.
6. Benchmark against other companies. How many HR pros do your same-sized competitors employ to do the same work? If your staff is larger, that could signal some inefficiencies.
7. Benchmark against your own company’s past performance and future goals. Compare your department’s performance and efficiency with prior years. This will help you determine where you can improve.
8. Learn from history. If your HR department faces spikes in certain kinds of work at different times of the year, prepare for them. Even a normal increase in work can spread employees too thin if they’re already doing more work than usual.
U.S. organizations spend an average of almost one-third of their payrolls on benefits costs. About half of that spending goes toward mandatory benefits like Social Security and unemployment insurance. The rest is spent on voluntary perks – and those perks could spell the difference between a regular company and one where people actually want to work.9. Explain your choices to HR staff just as you would to employees in other departments facing cutbacks. Perhaps it’s better for your employees to double-up than to risk downsizing. Maybe you can avoid layoffs if you simply don’t replace people who resign or retire—at least until after the crunch passes.
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10. Don’t wait for the next recession to create an ongoing program for measuring production and benchmarking performance—inside the organization and against competitors. If you keep a continuous eye on the numbers, you will see signs of a potential downturn and can prepare and adjust for it.
Hold on to your job
If your organization has to lay off HR staff, hang onto your job. Here’s how:
1. Make yourself indispensable. Volunteer for projects. Do your job well. Collaborate.
2. Be visible. Arrive early and stay late. Communicate with managers about your contributions. Give them regular status reports on important projects.
3. Don’t complain. Belt-tightening means everybody has to do more work. Do it well and keep a positive attitude. Fully cooperate with team members. Establish a reputation as someone who’s easy to work with.
4. Embrace change—or at least make it look like you do.
5. Pinch pennies. Come up with ways to help your organization save money—or make some. Example: Learn how staff can “attend” a meeting via web conferencing so your company doesn’t have to pay the travel expenses.
6. Keep your skills up-to-date. Learn the latest computer software. Read up on the best HR practices. Renew your certifications. Even if your organization can’t afford to send you to training or to college classes, try to go on your own.
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