It's Not All Paperwork: How Does HR Really Spend Their Time?

Business.com / HR Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

From recruiting to talent management, the Human Resources department is driving business. Here's how they spend their time for success.

What do you think the different members of your HR team do with their day?

The team at totaljobs have been talking to a cross-section of HR leaders from a range of different industries—from automotive to fashion, and from education to travel. This infographic visualizes how the HR Elite actually split their time, depending on their role, responsibilities and the sector they work in.

So, how does a HR department really spend their working week? How do they benefit the business? And which myths about them should you stop believing immediately?

Related Article: 9 HR Basics for Any Small Business

Total Jobs HR infographicImage via TotalJobs Infographic

How HR Spends Their Time

Of course the popular, criminally outdated idea of HR teams is that they are just administrators, constantly buried in paperwork and spreadsheets for the majority of their working week. As well as the day-to-day tasks that HR staff performs, there are many pressures on a modern HR team that demand great awareness and innovation from them.

From understanding how digital technology is changing the workplace, to finding the right tools and metrics to measure success, they’re constantly adapting to the needs of an ambitious and increasingly mobile pool of talent.

In fact, for the HR Elite, administration is by no means the top priority, with only 8.1 percent of the week spent pushing pencils (digitally or otherwise).

In fact the largest single portion of their time, an average of 21.8 percent, is spent meeting with senior staff and business partners. This demonstrates how the HR department has become far more than an assisting force in business, and is now a fully-fledged lead within organizations. By offering satisfaction and savings, HR teams have become invaluable.

“Have impact. Don’t ask if you’re doing a good job, ask if you’re making a difference. Push boundaries and respectfully challenge the status quo.” --Tess Smillie, VP Human Resources, Samsung UK

The importance of the HR department to business leaders and senior management is evidenced by the amount of time they spend engaging with employees. Whether it’s through meetings or general relations and engagement, HR leaders spend a total of 28.9 percent interacting with the teams and individuals within their company to support the improvement of the work environment and resolve individual issues.

Keeping the Business Talking

The HR elite often voices the needs of the wider organization directly to the executives who need to hear them. Why is this important?  A recent survey in the US found that 70 percent of employees who lack confidence in the abilities of senior leadership aren’t fully engaged. So HR starting that conversation in the first place and demonstrating the value of effective employee-management dialogue is one of the key metrics by which the impact of HR can be judged.

Employee Engagement Statistics

Image via Dale Carnegie

And investment pays dividends too, increasing investment in employee engagement by 10 percent can increase profits by £1,600 per employee, per year. The message is, communication matters, and HR teams and their managers can be the keystone of conversation.

So how do the directors in your company connect with the concerns of the majority? Is it effective? Regularly bringing together team leaders from across the organization with HR leaders can collate feedback to create an agenda for the directors to address.

“Think of the business and the individual as if it were your business and you were the individual. How would you like your business to succeed and why? How would you like to be treated and why? You won’t go wrong—in fact, you can do much better.”--Anouk Agussol, Head of People, Holiday Extras

Delegation Within the HR Department

Of course HR leaders cannot take a hands-on approach to everything, so some tasks and responsibilities are delegated to colleagues within the HR team.

According to the totaljobs survey, overseeing the arrival and departure of new staff isn’t always a priority for the HR Elite, with redundancy management requiring only 1.5 percent of their time, and the on boarding of new recruits demanding just 1.1 percent.

The survey data shows that delegating, or the division of labor across the HR management structure, is clear and often surprisingly focused, regardless of the sector in question. For example, Vice Presidents, Directors and Managers all spend a very similar percentage—around 12.5 percent—of their time on employee relations and engagement. In fact the onus of this activity resides with the Head of Department, who spends an average of 20.1 percent of their time on this type of engagement.

This kind of prioritizing demonstrates how the HR sector is formalizing a popular structure of command; refining how systems work best and sharing that model across organizations.

Is a more efficient division of duty something that your HR team could benefit from? A quick time management review between the leaders in your HR department can lead to a streamlining of processes across the organization.

Related Article: To Hire Or Not to Hire: HR Issues Affecting Small Business in 2015

Talent Management

There is a significant variation in how the different sectors divide their time within HR. This can often change depending on the level of direct employee engagement appropriate in that sector.

For example, a HR leader in the personnel-intensive health and housing sector of local government might be expected to spend as much as 80 percent of their time on employee relations and engagement, whilst an equivalent leader in the private travel sector may spend as little as six percent of their time in this way.

Much of this engagement is increasingly classified as ‘talent management’, as HR departments become an intrinsic part of both building and retaining teams, by engaging with their concerns, appealing to their interests and resolving their needs.

“Individuals do not always understand HR. Give them your time. It will pay off.” --Naomi Austen, Head of HR, Axis Group

Time to Change Perceptions

Many of our abiding impressions of HR are created during our first and last steps with an employer, as we try to navigate the processes of recruitment, induction and departure. As such, it is easy to dismiss the value of HR beyond these cathartic moments.

Changing these perceptions of HR is fundamental to the success of a business, and HR leaders are at the forefront of instigating this change. Developing and delivering a more holistic approach, and establishing a perpetual role for HR departments in every individual workplace experience, should be a priority for both HR leaders and companies as a whole.

It’s time to invest money and enthusiasm into HR, because every person in the business stands to benefit from the connectivity and information that an effective HR team can provide.

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