What Shakespeare Knows about HR Processes

Brevity is the soul of wit. – Will Shakespeare

One of the few things I remember from AP Calculus in high school is the Hamlet quote my teacher Mr. Hamilton would proclaim every time one of us got too long-winded in explaining theorems, rationalizing why we hadn’t completed our homework, or trying to talk our way out of a low test grade.

Brevity is the soul of wit.

Good advice for anyone designing or re-engineering HR processes these days.

One of my responsibilities early in my HR career was developing and implementing business processes around different HR areas. Onboarding new employees, tracking attrition, running performance rating meetings … any time there was an HR task to do, I developed detailed process steps to be followed by each stakeholder and involved party, and painstakingly documented every action and desire outcome along the way.

By the time I left that company, I had redesigned some processes 4 different times.

Brevity is the soul of wit.

Times have certainly changed! Business and HR teams are required to achieve more with less – with fewer people and in less time than before. HR’s stakeholders and constituents are busier than ever and have much less patience for complexity and detail.

Simplicity is the new mantra for HR processes. HR owes it to the business to create more efficient and less complex processes, by reducing the number of steps and people involved. After all, time is money, and time spent by employees and business leaders executing an HR process is time away from revenue-generating clients and customers.

  • Start by challenging underlying assumptions about who does what or who needs to be involved. Often, a leader or group can be satisfied with just knowing the outcomes of a process instead of being involved in every step.
  • Adhere to a “less is more” mentality. Less complexity = greater efficiency and fewer details to change as the business strategy evolves. You can always go back to ADD something in later – I like to call these improvements – but it is much more difficult to take something out that teams and leaders have grown dependent upon.
  • Strive to explain the process in one page. The one-pager is a great way to define the must-haves and the nice-to-haves. If a step in the process doesn’t warrant being included on the one-pager, there is a good chance it can be eliminated altogether.

If you find your HR processes getting complex and long-winded – like Polonius himself – remember what Mr. Hamilton and his friend Will Shakespeare both advocate.

Simplicity. Efficiency. Brevity. The soul of HR’s wit.

Heather Nelson is a partner with PeopleResults. You can reach her at hnelson@www.people-results.com or on Twitter at @HeatherGNelson1. Sign up to receive the PeopleResults blog at Current.