HRLeaks: Hack Your HR Processes

How many HR people does it take to figure out why my husband didn’t get paid correctly last week and to get his paycheck deposited ASAP?

No, that is not a rhetorical question. Broken Money Broken Process

Company hire hackers (or former hackers) all the time to test the security of their data and systems. I propose a new service – available immediately – to companies with whom I have a direct relationship that involves my grocery budget and shoe money. I call it HRLeaks: HR Process Hacking. And while I am not going to go all Wikileaks and reveal HR’s dirty little secrets here, I have found ways to improve HR productivity and employee engagement with a few HR process tweaks.

Here are a few nuggets of what I learned in my pilot …

IT should not be writing the text for any emails generated from the HR ticket system. IT people work in code. Your employees should not have to decode emails meant to communicate what is happening on their issue, so have your system’s emails written by people who speak in words, not numbers. Better yet … include details and use complete sentences. An email that says, “Your case status has been updated,” does nothing to provide current status, outstanding points or expected resolution times. Get crazy and use some data-fill technology to push out all those minor (!!) details, like, “A check will be FedEx’ed today. Expect arrival Tuesday to your home address.”

  • HR Productivity Impact: Medium – fewer pings from employees asking “So … what does this email mean?”
  • Employee Engagement Impact: High – clear, concise information allows me to get on with my work. Bonus engagement points if I don’t have to log back in to the ticket system.

“Resolved” is not a thorough explanation for closing out a ticket when someone’s shoe money is involved. Until people can telepathically send information in their head to someone else’s head, words will matter. And a word like “resolved” is loaded with multiple meanings, depending on your perspective:

  • Call Center Rep: resolved = ticket closed. My part of this is done.
  • HR Rep: resolved = no more emails or pings on this one. I am on to the next problem challenge.
  • Employee: resolved = the money is in the bank. Wife off my back.
  • Tony Soprano: resolved = swimming with the fishes.

HR’s ticket system should not allow high-priority cases – like payroll issues – to be closed out without an explanation for every person involved in the issue.

  • HR Productivity Impact: High – less time proving verbal updates to employee on resolutions steps and timeframes; now tackling that Inbox.
  • Employee Engagement Impact: Medium – HR double-speak. Call with manager to see if he can help move this along.

HR departments are still the cobbler’s children when it comes to having efficient tools and systems, and all those smartphone apps aren’t helping improve this perception.

It is a sad day for HR when an employee’s banking app informs them of a payroll processing error. HR needs to be able to run basic processes – like paying people – on both a standard and an exception basis, and needs modern tools to do this. Heads up: your employees don’t understand how a multinational company with more than 30,000 U.S. employees can directly deposit regular payroll, quarterly bonuses, and individual incentive payments, but not a one-off payroll correction payment. HR systems need to be more like a smartphone app and less like a mainframe. P. S. Someone needs to be reviewing the batch process error reports for mistakes or anomalies – or create an app that can do that.

  • HR Productivity Impact: High – Double data entry into check request system and FedEx website. Ping to supervisor to approve payment immediately so check is ready at FedEx pickup time. Negative hit to HR engagement (embarrassed): yes, you heard me correctly (“FedEx”).
  • Employee Engagement Impact: Medium – text to wife to see if she will be home to sign for FedEx package. Late to client meeting due to 5-minute conversation with HR to update FedEx delivery to work address. Apologize profusely to wife and client, while throwing HR under the bus.

So how did my husband’s employer fare in my HRLeaks HR Process Hacking pilot? You be the judge:

6 days/144 hours. 3 HR professionals. 1 manager. 1 employee. 1 employee’s wife/HR consultant. 1 FedEx driver. $40 Fed Ex fees. 1 banking app. 5 minutes to deposit check via banking app.

Heather Nelson is a partner with PeopleResults. She has never found an HR process she didn’t want to tweak in some way or another, and system-generated emails have been assaulting her grammar sensibilities since the she received her first email as a new HR analyst (many years ago). You can reach her at or on Twitter at @HeatherGNelson1. Sign up to receive the PeopleResults blog at Current.