Simplifying HR: How to Make Work Less Complicated

Simplifying HR: How to Make Work Less Complicated

A complex HR function can impair company performance and employee morale. Here’s how to simplify it for the good of your business

By Stuart Hearn

Unnecessary red tape and procedural hurdles do nothing but slow work life down and frustrate employees. Yet all too often, companies fall prey to complexity. Over time, steps get added to previously clear-cut processes and, before you know it, your performance management systems have become convoluted and inefficient. Ironically, as Dejan Stojanovic, Serbian writer, philosopher and businessman, once said, “The most complicated skill is to be simple.”

Thankfully, there are some easy steps to put in place to remove chaos from your organization, boost performance and keep morale high. Here are just a few ways to return simplicity to your workplace.

Replace complicated reviews with catch-ups

Barely a day goes by without an article declaring the demise of the annual appraisal. We’ve been advised to abandon them for years now, and for good reason. They’re overly complex, inefficient and time-consuming. 

Annual appraisals typically require the use of review forms, which can simply turn into a box-ticking exercise over time. They traditionally incorporate the use of ratings, which are innately subject to bias and have been shown to be bad for employee engagement. On top of this, they take a long time from start to finish.

As an example, we can look to Adobe. Before Adobe adapted its performance management process, it dedicated an incredible 80,000 management hours each year to performance appraisals, after which time it would experience high levels of employee turnover. What’s more, appraisals attempt to accomplish far too much in one sitting and, in one study, an incredible 98% of recipients stated they found annual performance reviews unnecessary.

If you were going to design your performance management process from scratch today, can you honestly say that annual performance reviews would be the system you would come up with? It’s highly unlikely. It’s far more likely that you are simply continuing with annual performance reviews because you are wary of change. If this is the case, you’re not alone — our recent poll uncovered that 65% of companies are still using annual appraisals for similar reasons.

Organizational change can be difficult, but eliminating annual reviews and replacing them with frequent, informal, one-on-one check-ins will save you time and result in happier, more engaged, more productive employees in the long run, without the use of overly complicated forms.

Adios annual reviews
Adios annual reviews:

Appraising your appraisals process might lead to better productivity 

Stop micromanaging and controlling your employees

When you attempt to control not only your own work, but also the day-to-day work and actions of your entire team, life can get pretty complicated and overwhelming pretty fast. You might feel that, as a leader or manager, it’s your responsibility to delegate work and ensure that employees do things in a very precise way, to a very specific set of instructions. However, this isn’t the truth.

It’s your responsibility to drive individual and company performance while accomplishing company objectives. Trying to control everyone to such an extreme extent will exhaust you and frustrate everyone you work with — so nobody is a winner.

If this sounds familiar, it’ll benefit you to take a simpler approach to performance and SMART objectives. The best way to do this is for managers to meet with employees and explain company goals and aspirations. Given this context, employees then have the tools they require to carefully construct SMART objectives that align with overall company goals. Managers should then take a step back, while always being on hand to offer support and assistance.

Allow employees a little autonomy and wriggle room. They need to be able to approach problems in their own way and come up with their own solutions. These are valuable skills for employees to learn, meaning they’ll become huge assets to your business. Control a little less and trust a little more, and you’ll be rewarded with a much simpler working life.

Use simple software to manage employee performance

You might be looking for the most sophisticated technology available to drive your business forward, but as Leonardo da Vinci once stated, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. The worst thing you can do for your business is to invest in expensive software that boasts a number of high-tech features and require a lot of training which, ultimately, you never use. If you do, you’ll become one of the 76% of CIOs who state that IT complexity makes it impossible to manage performance.

Before buying HR software, decide which features would actually be useful to you. Don’t pay good money for unnecessary bells and whistles. Find a package that is so simple to use that you don’t even need to invest in training time — user-friendliness is an essential component of great HR and performance management software. If you need to spend hours on training and integration, you’ll know you’ve gone down the wrong route.

HR you ready?
HR you ready?:

HR software can help you efficiently manage staff performance, but simplicity is key

Eliminate needless business jargon

It’s not always what you say — sometimes, it really is the way you say it. In today’s fast-paced business world, you should be as clear and concise as possible. Simplicity starts with the terminology and vernacular of your business, so try your best to avoid management buzzwords and contrived business speak that will only confuse and frustrate employees. 

Do your best to prioritize clear, authentic, meaningful communication. Say exactly what you mean. Instead of claiming you’ll “circle back” to a particular conversation, or rather than ‘“tabling it” for later on, simply state that you will return to the discussion shortly. Instead of saying you don't have the "bandwidth" to deal with a project, just say you are strapped for time. Next time you want to "touch base offline", keep the conversation natural and just say you will stop by in person to chat.

Go back to basics

When life starts to get more complicated at work, a good way to counteract it is to get back to basics and revisit your company values and objectives. What do you really want to accomplish, and how do you want to accomplish it? What do you truly value in your employees, and what do you want to show to the rest of the world? Answering these questions will help you when it comes to even the most complicated of business dilemmas. Stay true to your simple company values and you will ensure your business remains on course and thrives in the long term.


About the author

Stuart Hearn is the CEO of Clear Review, a performance management software system that helps HR departments improve individual, team, and organizational performance. He has over 20 years of experience in HR and is passionate about employee engagement and keeping up with current performance management trends.