This is according to research by Access Group, which found that many HR professionals are unable to dedicate any time to activities such as employee engagement, wellness programmes and talent development. Instead their time is being consumed by operational activities such as booking holidays, keeping track of attendance, payroll admin and health and safety.
“Reading this is disheartening,” responded Guy Pink, former interim chief executive of Addaction and executive director of HR. “Why are mid-level HR managers involved in booking leave and tracking attendance? What a waste of their skills.”
So what should those who feel like they're drowning in HR admin do?
Redistribute and delegate work
Senior HR professionals must redistribute work to free themselves up for strategic activities, Pink advised. “They need to shift these responsibilities to managers to free up the time to concentrate on value-added items,” he said. “That enables HR to add value to the business and not be just a glorified administrator.”
Step back and focus on your own career
Pink added the importance of HR focusing on their own careers for a change. “From their own career development perspective they need to be stretching themselves,” he said. “They should start focusing on their own development, which is probably at the very bottom of their to-do pile.”
Lobby for more investment
Executive director of people and governance at St Mungos Broadway Helen Giles pointed out, however, that time taken up on operational HR is often the result of limited budgets. “In my experience the reason many HR people are totally bogged down in the day-to-day activities is that so many organisations seriously under-invest in HR,” she told HR magazine.
“HR needs the same level and pace of investment in operating processes and management information systems as the other vital functions of the business,” she added. “Instead what frequently happens is that HR is not seen as strategic, therefore the most senior person is appointed at one or more levels below the top team, and they have one or two junior staff who are responsible for dealing with all the transactional stuff on HR to staff ratios that are totally unmanageable.”
Find another job
In this instance the best course of action is to get job hunting, and find a role at an organisation more switched-on about the value HR can bring, said Giles. “And before you accept the job offer grill the CEO or other executive who is offering you the job to ascertain how much they understand the nature of strategic HR and OD, and if they are prepared to resource it accordingly,” she added.
Reprioritise and get outside your comfort zone
However, Martin Tiplady, MD of Chameleon People Solutions and former HR director of the Metropolitan Police Service, advised that reprioritising is what’s needed for some HR professionals - and a willingness to risk moving away from 'doing the doing'. “I can’t say ‘make Friday strategy day’. Sometimes it’s not that simple,” he said. “It’s about priorities… we need to get away from being more comfortable 'doing the doing' than 'doing the thinking'.”
However, there are certain techniques that will help HR professionals find time for more strategic activities, by adopting a different mindset, said Tiplady. It’s about finding what works for you, he advised.
“Without doubt I’m best in the morning,” he said. “I’m in the shower, walking around, getting on the train, and all the while I’m prepping for a speech or mulling a solution to something. Then you get to your desk and the grind does take over. But there’s a real period of protected time.”