Ever wonder how much of your HR team’s time is spent on transactional work compared to more value-added contributions?

Although some studies report this to be 40%, the client I worked with recently registered a shocking 90%!

This group, like so many others I’ve encountered over the years, is struggling to increase the value they bring to the organization. However, they’re saddled with administrative tasks such as worker’s comp claims, benefits enrollment, new hire paperwork, and many others.

We know HR spends too much time on wasteful, paper-based administrative work and that it desperately needs to be automated and streamlined. The question is how to make that happen.

Similar to this line of thinking, my team had hit its limit with the various paper-based processes that had us buried in paperwork. The filing alone took a part-time person a few days a month just to keep up. At this point, my team had decided to both automate and streamline all the administrative processes. As we gathered in a room to map each process, the group pulled together all of our forms, for a total of 179 different forms! We honestly had no idea there were so many.

We noticed that any one category, such as safety, accounted for a significant portion. There was a separate set of forms for each benefit provider. Plus, each vendor had forms that were somewhat redundant because someone had decided a new piece of information had to be collected on a separate form.

Over the next year, we identified the key pieces of information that needed to be transferred between payroll, employees, and vendors. Then, we developed our own internal data structure that provided our vendors what was needed without using their forms.

Surprisingly, the vendors were fairly comfortable working with us to take out all paper and waste from their processes. While it took many rounds of improvement, we reduced the number of forms from 179 down to the few that could not be removed. The rest of the administrative processes had been automated and were maintained by a blend of the employees and HR support.

This overall effort reduced at least half of the HR team’s time spent on administration amounting in a savings in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

More importantly, in addition to the HR team freeing up their time, they had learned how to do it for themselves.

What I didn’t realize at the time was this: we were not alone. Many HR groups that have yet to streamline and automate their processes are discouraged about how much of their time goes into paperwork.

How could HR possibly…

▪ Keep up with the daily pressures of hiring talent in a tough market?
▪ Address immediate critical issues?
▪ Work on any given year’s objectives such as:
– A new performance system?
– Training leaders?
– Developing an improved approach to diversity and inclusion?

Sure, it’s a huge hurdle to come up with a game plan to remove and streamline transactional work. However, without doing so, much of HR’s potential value is wasted.

As the focus of my work has been in lean HR, I’ve only become more convinced that the need to eliminate wasteful administration stands in the way of HR beginning to achieve its potential.

Here are a few guidelines to determine the magnitude of this problem in your organization:

1. Measure how much of your HR resources are going to transactional work and how much of that time is likely wasted or redundant effort.
2. Scrutinize your paper use. Note that most paper-based practices are by nature wasteful.
3. Have your team assemble your various forms together in one place and consider the amount of repetition and wasted effort there is.
4. Benchmark other paperless HR groups to better understand “the path to paperless administration.”

Enlist the organization’s stakeholders in supporting your efforts to streamline the work. Most agree it’s worth the time and energy but are waiting on an organized plan to address it.

As I watched my group remove many of the wasteful, repetitive tasks found in the administrative arena, I realized their skills had clearly advanced.

They had become adept at spotting unnecessary work and more than capable of removing it. In the efforts to revise processes, they had partnered well with others to establish more effective ways to balance work between HR, suppliers and other departments. The time and money they saved grew year after year.

So how much time is your HR department wasting? And what strategic and value-added contributions could they make if they were freed up from inefficient administrative tasks?

As part of my mission to increase lean HR skills and development, I am committed to helping organizations streamline the transactional aspects of HR so they won’t get stuck there.

This is a big problem, so it needs a big solution. You need to come at it because of the magnitude of the problem it is, so you can actually get to the other side. This isn’t just about reducing paper, but a redesign of how information flows.

If you’d like to reduce waste, unleash your HR team’s potential and free up thousands of hours of wasted time, send me a message here to learn more about working with the Lean Leadership Center.

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