HR Audit DIY: 9 “Checkpoints” to Improve the Way You Work With People

If you take a closer look at the processes in your company right now, what is it that works well? What needs to change so that the work becomes easier and more effective?

In this article, Masha Tekuch, an HR Business Partner who cooperates with IT companies in the Ukraine and abroad, shares the main “checkpoints” in human resource management and HR processes in order to help understand them better.

1. Recruitment 

If you have recently gone through a whole recruitment process in your company, you can evaluate how successful your candidate experience was: 

  • How well did the recruiter know your company?
  • Response speed and compliance with agreements regarding the scheduled meetings/feedback
  • The interview: did you want to work in this company and with these people? Did you understand the tasks and roles you would have to fulfill?

If you can’t evaluate the candidate experience yourself, conduct a short survey among candidates who have gone through it. 

In addition, when analyzing the recruitment process, it is important to pay attention to the following issues:

  • Consistency and common vision of all parties (or at least discussion of controversial views)
  • Comprehensible recruiting funnel for each job opening at the beginning of the process 
  • Bottlenecks in the funnel: where do the candidates get lost and where do we lose time? 
  • Allocated budget
  • Speed of filling a vacancy: Is the client satisfied? Are they suitable for the business?
  • Cost of filling one vacancy
  • Percentage of resignations during the probation period and during the first year of work

2. Company atmosphere

It is a very tricky matter. I am considering the most obvious issues when a brief evaluation is needed:

  1. All employees who work with internal clients (office manager, certain accounting departments, drivers, a part of the HR team and so on). If their behaviour makes you feel perplexed, for example, any display of bad manners or neglect towards coworkers, then something is probably wrong. If the staff responsible for the internal client ignores it, perhaps people are getting the same messages from the CEO or HRD.
  2. Look at how people behave when they get together. Do they speak with each other or smile at one another? Do they discuss any work-related issues? What if they are trying to sneak out from the meeting and avoid each other with everything unrelated to work? What does this indicate? Perhaps they aren’t interested, which is a rare thing if the company works coherently and efficiently. Or maybe it is forbidden or perceived negatively. I am not talking about pointless lengthy conversations over a cup of tea. What I mean is how people react to meetings and whether they are able to solve issues together.

3. Informing

It is highly desirable that every employee know what the main goals of the company are. If the company is big (with over 700-1000 employees), it is usually transformed into mission and goals for every department. To me, it is crucially important that each employee knows where the company is heading and why it is working in the first place, but it doesn’t substitute for values and competences. 

When employees understand the values that are endorsed by the company, as well as how they are expected to manifest them in their actions, it becomes easier for them to figure out how to behave in difficult situations and make the right decisions. However, a person needs to know what the purpose of her daily tasks. Not only to receive a salary, but also to talk to interesting people and gain new experiences. What is she doing on a daily basis that affects the overall company results? How useful can she be?

Information can be relayed during general meetings or through newsletters. Don’t make a big deal out of it: people should trust their CEO and the things they say.

4. Management

Let’s divide it into top and middle management (team leaders, heads of departments).

In a company, many things depend on the CEO or founder who fulfills the duties of the CEO. It is important to understand that communication, target-setting, and management style are connected to the leader of the organization. It is not easy to change anything if the leaders don’t respect the people, tend to not deliver on their promises, or lie. There are different stories when the leader doesn’t want to or can’t get involved in communicating with people nor informing them about goals and results. This role is necessary, although someone else can fulfill it (one or several managers), for instance, deputy heads, or the role can be split between the various heads of departments. I think it is wrong for HR to take on this role if she doesn’t have the authority to make the necessary decisions. In such a case, the HR simply becomes a “comforter” and a person who passes on information. Sometimes it’s fine, but it usually comes a the cost of loss of energy and self-respect.

So, it is not good to ignore the function of informing. If the CEO can do it, that is great. If not, you will have to think about finding someone else to do the job. The point is to have the employees understand the company goals as well as the results that the company achieved by following them. In my view, it is one of the strongest elements of employee involvement. 

The role and the level of team leaders and heads of departments are directly linked to the existing company structure and its stage of development. In flat organizational structures (for example, “green” organizations, according to the Dynamic Integration Theory), the role of TL is less explicit, and they are lead experts and mentors. In hierarchical structures, this role requires more time and attention. You can analyze the roles leaders should fulfill (or will fulfill in the near future), and based on that, evaluate their managerial competences and plan further development. If people keep quitting their jobs because of their manager, who constantly changes teams, take a closer look at this particular manager. Get feedback from the employees: perhaps you should seek a quick fix here.

5. Relationship between company goals, employee tasks, and the motivation system

Company goals, tasks done by experts, as well as systems of KPI, OKR, and bonuses depending on their achievement must be logically linked. It can’t be that the main current goal of the company is to get clients on the new market, while the tasks of specialists are aimed at maintaining the old client base or increasing the average check in sales. Targets can differ, but in the long run the tasks of experts, heads of divisions, and top-managers have to be aligned with company goals and aimed at their implementation.

6. Communication between teams

This is a problem that becomes more and more relevant in IT, especially now, considering the transformation of structures into more flat and project-based teams. The issues arise from communication between teams and the necessity of providing updates between teams regarding completed goals and further plans.

Oftentimes, even among tasks that have similar goals, the teams implement contradicting projects without negotiating with one another, hindering the development of the company. Because of this, decisions and developments have to be reversed, and time and money must be spent on changes or rework. It is therefore important to have processes (tracking systems, organizational meetings, coordinators) who facilitate communication among the teams. This does not apply, however to situations in which teams are invited to act simultaneously to test differnt options; in these cases, teams are usually informed of these expectations beforehand. 

Sometimes employees fall into the trap of excessive courtesy during meetings, for the sake of good relations within the company. In contrast, some employees seek to assert their place through excessive criticism. It is important that all parties communicate in a straightforward manner, while remaining polite towards colleagues. When people are unable to express their opinions, especially in cases of disagreement, time is wasted. It is vital that everyone feels that their opinion is welcome; this helps to prevent the implementation of a poor idea. 

7. Continuity culture and transfer of knowledge

At times, companies grow around several key people, usually those who possess expertise in the field at hand. There are two risks with this type of structure:

  • These key people may leave the company or take extended sick leave, leaving the company vulnerable without them
  • Oftentimes the ownership of exclusive information negatively influences the self-positioning of an employee in the company

It is important to have safety nets in place to combat the bus factor. Since it is impossible to know when a person will decide to leave the company, HR must make sure that the company won’t suffer because of this decision. Despite our retention policies and other processes in place, it is preferable that the company’s success does not rely too much on one person.

8. Feedback

In order to receive and give feedback, you can organize 1:1 meetings where the immediate supervisor and the subordinate specialist can talk face-to-face about something more global than operational tasks.

Such meetings can be inspiring and allow the manager and their colleagues to foster mutual understanding and trust. Usually the first 1:1 meetings are rather exciting and it is not always clear what needs to be discussed. This is why managment preparation is key to producing effective and useful meetings.

9. Processes and the need for them

Sometimes processes and meetings resemble rituals; they have been around for so long that no one can remember why they are necessary. Therefore, all processes should be subject to periodic review and abolished if redundant. Some of them can be replaced with new and more effective processes, some can be automated, and others can simply be eliminated if they are deemed unnecessary. If you notice employees are reluctant to carry out certain processes, it may mean that these routines are obsolete, no longer effective, or take more time than the benefits they produce. However, it could also mean that the employees lack the necessary knowledge and competencies to carry them out. 

What can you do if employees are reluctant to carry out processes that are necessary to the company’s functioning or long-term results? It is critically important that you do not fail to look at this issue. Professionals often fail to take action when they cannot understand the benefits of doing so: they are focused on getting results, recognition, money, time-savings, etc. It is imperative that you explain to them the importance of such processes, as well as future rewards for the company, and the reasons why they cannot be eliminated. In some cases, you can support employees by offering rewards for following processes like documentation.

It is important to review your company’s processes and procedures in order to understand to their impact on successful completion of organizational goals. Even more important is employee efficiency and satisfaction.

What is the most important HR benchmark to you in analyzing a company?

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