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Making Sure the Trains Run on Time

April 20, 2011

After reading a few posts this week throwing around the question “Is HR in Trouble?” (** links below) I ruminated on the concepts and took a look around my own little world to see if MY  department was in trouble.  I figured I best make sure I’m managing my own HR world before going out and tackling the entire profession.

So that led me to thinking about a typical week in our HR shop.  When you have a small HR Department and operate “in the trenches” you learn to wear multiple hats.  We’re all generalists (sadly no space for HR specialists here) and our expertise must be wide and deep in all aspects of HR.

So while we’re often knee-deep and working on fun projects, long-term initiatives and strategic big-picture stuff, our day-to-day our goal is to make sure the trains keep running on time, make all the right stops and pick up the right passengers.  Not glamorous and probably not particularly what freshly-scrubbed-and-minted HRM graduates anticipate their life will be like in the super-sexy world of HR.  So what sorts of things occupy our time?

Overall, I like to say we focus on success by providing support, guidance and info to managers/leaders while providing a positive employment experience for all staff.  There’s some pretty basic stuff we’re responsible for – managing the core HR programs (comp, benefits, staffing, employee relations, development, safety, etc) and providing good old-fashioned “HR Customer Service.”  We advise and work with leaders at all levels on anything to do with the people issues.  We recruit candidates and work with our managers through hiring and on boarding; we stay on top of regulatory and compliance issues and we give it our all to make sure communication is flowing from the C-Suite to employees and vice versa.

And yeah, we spend quite a bit of time on tactical and administrative tasks.  We’ve streamlined and sacrificed some of the previously-considered sacred cows (a.k.a. unnecessary and redundant tasks) but we still file and process ‘stuff’ – enrollments, changes, verifications, and on and on.  We maintain medical files, OSHA records and W/C files; we separate our I-9s and keep our EEO self-identification records in a distinct location.  We handle records retention, move items to off-site storage, archive and do it all again at the end of each year.   If just one employee goes out on a FMLA leave, we send him/her 18 pages – including their Rights and Responsibilities, the Certification of Health Care Provider Form, a copy of their Job Description, information on GINA, and the claim forms for STD (notations and copies retained).

I’m exhausted just thinking about it…

But even as we spend time on some of these less-than-alluring aspects of our HR function, we keep one important concept at the forefront – we regularly ask ourselves “How is what we’re doing having a positive impact on the organization? Is it contributing to increased revenue or cutting expenses? Is it enhancing the overall employment experience for our staff members”  If we can’t answer those questions, we stop and examine the process, output or result.  Pointless and unwarranted?  Doing it because it has been done that way for 15 years?  Eliminate it.  And replace the time spent with an activity that means something.


If we’re doing our jobs right there’s a seamless and effortless grace to our day-to day activities.   Are all our “passengers” enjoying the journey in comfort and getting to their destinations…on time? Are we satisfying the requirements of the Railroad Commission? 

Doing it right sometimes is as simple as making sure the trains are running on time and we’re hitting all the correct stops.


**referenced links – via Jason Lauritsen Trish McFarlane Steve Browne Franny Oxford and Lisa Rosendahl

One Comment leave one →
  1. Brian Caraher permalink
    April 21, 2011 2:37 am

    I love your “important concept.” It is such a rational mentality that surprisingly is not always embraced.

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