Skip to navigation
6 Min Read

5 Ways HR Pros Can Support Their Company With Science-Based Simplicity

Marc Effron

We need to get out of our own way.

I often say this to HR professionals burdened by complex processes, overwhelming initiatives, and ever-increasing expectations. Processes are essential to many HR responsibilities, but often they’re just red tape. A lot of the work I do with HR teams involves cutting through that red tape to get to the core of an issue.

I’m Marc Effron, President of the Talent Strategy Group, where we help leaders become talent-builders. I recently had a conversation with 15Five about simplifying processes and fostering a goal-centric company culture on the HR Superstars podcast. Here are just a few takeaways from it.

Set goals→crush them→repeat

I believe so strongly in the power of proper goal-setting that I wore a shirt with those five words printed on it during my conversation with 15Five. You would think this was basic stuff—and it is—but you’d be surprised by how many of the world’s top organizations fumble goal-setting.

The starting point of any conversation about performance—whether it’s at the organizational level or for individual collaborators—is a simple question. Do you have three aligned goals that are going to drive your performance this year?

Most organizations are missing the answer to that question. So any attempt to drive performance, whether it’s at the highest level or for individual collaborators, is going to be misaligned and unguided.

Don’t make goals from scratch

So you know you need to set goals. But how do you do it the right way? Everyone from the CEO to the most junior employee wants to know their work contributes to the company’s overall goals.

That’s why every organization needs a strategy that cascades from the board room to individual projects. It can really be that simple, and many organizations don’t even do that.

So what does that look like in practice?

Say the C-Suite has ironed out three big goals: increase revenue for one of their products, build better partnerships in their industry, and reduce customer churn overall.

A VP responsible for that product can turn the first goal into multiple goals for their department, say increasing the total number of sales, increasing the profitability of that product, and increasing lifetime value for its customer base.

When it’s time to set goals for managers, team leads, and individual collaborators, this VP can take one of two approaches:

  • Say “Here are my four goals, which one do you want to help me achieve?”
  • Say “Here are my four goals. Can you brainstorm some ways your work can support me in achieving these?”

Managers and team leads can then take these goals and repeat the process for their teams.

It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.

Focus on outcomes when working with managers

HR professionals find themselves in a difficult position. They’re helping the organization at large push on towards its big goals, they’re fielding requests for help from individual collaborators, and they’re the ones meant to support managers as the build the skills they need to lead.

When it comes to that last responsibility, complexity is the enemy. If every process involves multiple forms, a dozen steps, and a long back-and-forth between that manager and someone in HR, someone’s going to cut corners somewhere.

Keep it simple by focusing on the outcome. If the outcome is better coaching sessions, why add a ten-step process at all?

Every time you want to add complexity to a process, from an extra step to an extra form, ask yourself if the average manager would be willing to write a check for what you just proposed. Would they pay for what you’re giving them if it wasn’t coming from HR? That manager is focused on outcomes, and you should be too.

Know the business inside and out

Most people in HR get into the field because they care about people. That’s fine. It’s what we want. But ask them how much revenue their business brought in the previous year, or its earnings-per-share, and you’ll get blank looks.

Cutting to the core of any process is tough when you don’t have a strong grasp of what matters to the business. Go out of your way to educate yourself on what matters to the top brass—and to every collaborator in your org chart—and you’ll understand what that complex process you’re working on should really be achieving.

Build relationships (instead of looking for hacks)

What are we trying to do when we overcomplicate our processes?

At best, we’re offloading the opportunity to address and figure out problems to a standardized process. At worst, we’re looking for hacks to make things easier.

But want to know the simplest way to make sure anything you do as an HR professional has a better chance of succeeding?

Build relationships.

Influence is a powerful ally in HR, and that comes from building warm relationships with people. Someone who knows you and trusts you is more likely to buy into your ideas, support your initiatives, and align with your goals.

By far, this is one of the most powerful things you can do to be an incredibly effective HR leader. It’s not easy, but it saves you a lot of complexity.

Keep it simple

Simplicity is the HR team’s greatest ally. Complicated processes are confusing, burdensome, and often don’t get followed anyway. Just remember to help everyone set better goals (and crush them), push goals down the org chart, focus on outcomes, learn the business, and build better relationships. Stick to what works and what’s proven to work, and your every process will be that much better.

About the Author

Marc Effron helps the world’s most prominent companies, governments, foundations and NGOs to elevate the quality and impact of their talent. He leads transformational projects globally in industries ranging from pharmaceuticals to consumer products to technology. As the founder and President of the Talent Strategy Group, he leads the firm’s global consulting and education businesses.

Marc co-authored the Harvard Business Review Publishing best-selling book One Page Talent Management, and companies worldwide apply its discipline of science-based simplicity, accountability and transparency. His most recent book, 8 Steps to High Performance, is quickly reaching best-seller status. Marc has written more than 50 articles and regularly produces insightful research reports on key HR and talent topics.