Cutting HR down to size

Busy HR professionals can solve dilemmas through hard graft, but Sue Weekes
suggests an alternative guide – the route to ‘quick and dirty HR

According to HR consultant Paul Kearns, the HR function can learn a lot from
the shopfloor engineer. "Their pragmatism tells them they have to do
whatever it takes to produce enough products by the end of the shift. And if
quick and dirty methods are the way to get there, then that’s fine with them,"
he explains.

Procedures and processes have their place, but the time they take up and the
associated administration they bring often renders HR incapable of ever being
reactive to a situation. Why wait three weeks for the board to sign off a bonus
when a crate of choice Chablis from the local Majestic would arrive while a job
well done (and the extra hours they worked) were still fresh in your employee’s

And while there is a time and a place for textbook HR, it isn’t 10 minutes
before a line manager is about to do a short-notice appraisal of a staff
member. In such a case, they need some swift side-of-the-desk coaching from you
on the kind of questions they should ask.

Quick and dirty may not come naturally to many HR professionals – after all,
you didn’t study hours for that CIPD qualification only to fly in the face of
all its best practices – but being spontaneous and reactive can be an asset. To
assist you, we’ve lowered ourselves to produce the quick and dirty guide to
nine key HR functions.

Recruiting a new member of staff

Forget Spending hours assessing the core competencies for the job and
dreaming up your set of killer questions.

Quick & dirty route Find out when you last advertised for a
similar position; dig out the outline job description; make a few necessary
tweaks; and compose a set of six or seven questions about the job that you want
to ask in an interview.

Career development

Forget Personal development plans (PDPs) and defined career paths.

Quick & dirty route Sit down with the employee and ask what they
want out of life and what they expect from their job. You can even chuck in the
hoary old: "So, tell me, where do you see yourself in five years’

Performance appraisal

Forget Competencies and laborious appraisal forms.

Quick & dirty route Sit down on a regular basis with your staff
and ask them how they feel they’re doing and then tell them how you think
they’re performing.

360 degree feedback

Forget Spending days on a computer-generated report from members of
staff who work alongside, under or above that person.

Quick & dirty route Give people permission to talk openly and
honestly about that person without any repercussions, for example: if they
think a line manager is rubbish at their job, let them say so without being

Reward and recognition

Forget Sticking to rigid procedural processes where a reward has to
be raised with a director and signed off by the board.

Quick & dirty route Instead of consulting a director, give the
line manager permission to pay an employee a one-off bonus for doing the job
well or for smaller scale achievements, tell them to buy the employee a bottle
of champagne and put it on expenses.

Just-in-time training

Forget Making sure that employees plan and record every piece of
training they do in their PDP.

Quick & dirty route Furnish staff with a few key URLs of websites
that offer just-in-time training (such as, which can
literally be done at the desktop while they are having a sandwich, and allow
them to access it as and when they need.


Forget Participating in salary surveys or paying large sums for
comparative data

Quick & dirty route Find out the market rate for the job and pay

Performance management

Forget Encouraging staff to look at where they can move in the
business and defining their career development paths.

Quick & dirty route Tell the individual that their performance
will be measured and find a way of doing it.

Corporate communications

Forget Paying someone a big salary to head the corporate comms
department and to publish piffle and waffle stories on the corporate intranet.

Quick & dirty route Make sure staff are thanked personally for
the job they have done.

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