Stop Trying to be Smarter than a 5th Grader!

smarter than a 5th grader

HR is notorious for making the lives of others more difficult.  Policies, rules, forms, processes, paperwork…stuff that gets in the way of the business.  The business needs some of it, but it doesn’t need it to be a nuisance.  And most of it, unfortunately, is a nuisance. So as an HR professional, you’re starting off with the cards stacked against you.  Every manager has at least some past impression of HR that leaves them wanting less of it. Whether you gave them that impression or not, most operators will have some skepticism about your ability to bring value to their business.  And by “brining value” they most often mean “staying out of the way.”  So why not give them that?  Step aside. Help them cut through the clutter; don’t pile on.

Do you really think they are going to get excited about a new 5 page evaluation form that’s tied to some fancy competency framework?  Not as excited as they’d be if you handed them a one page form with three simple questions: 1) what does the employee do well? 2) what do they need to work on? and 3) how are they going to do that?  Do you think they go home and brag to their friends about how user-friendly the company’s vacation policy is?  I bet they would if the policy was “we trust you to take vacation when you need to and to be here when you need to; we’ll keep an eye on it to make sure people don’t abuse it, but don’t worry about earning it or accruing it or tracking it or getting approval on it.  Just take it.”  How many managers do you know who enjoy filling out hiring requisitions?  So why – seriously – do they have to? Why can’t they just send an Email that reads “I need to hire X, I would like to pay no more than Y, and I’d prefer to have them start no later than Z?” Do you really need more than that? I can come up with this stuff all day long. And I’ll argue with anyone who says “it can’t be done” for just as long.  I’d recommend applying these three simple questions to everything your HR team does.  If you answer “yes” to any one of them, you’d better take a step back and take a hard look at why you’re doing it.

  • Does this create more work for someone outside of the HR department?
  • Am I doing this because I think we have to and not because one of my clients is asking for it?
  • Do you have to be smarter than a 5th grader to understand it?
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4 Responses to Stop Trying to be Smarter than a 5th Grader!
  1. HRMargo
    May 13, 2010 | 2:35 pm

    You summed it all up for us Charlie. Just think how our cost of hire would decrease if only hiring managers took your advice. It would be an interesting experiment.

    Great post my friend,


  2. Robin S
    May 13, 2010 | 2:52 pm


  3. John Hunter @Curious Cat Management Blog
    May 17, 2010 | 8:15 am

    Very well put. “Every manager has at least some past impression of HR that leaves them wanting less of it.” If you can’t turn yourself into a resource managers want more help from that is a problem. There is plenty of room to remove waste from HR processes and increase value. Those that can successfully accomplish those tasks will prosper.
    John Hunter @Curious Cat Management Blog´s last blog ..Management Blog Posts From May 2006 My ComLuv Profile

  4. Ed Nichols
    May 27, 2010 | 8:51 am

    Good principles to apply to all process – regardless of what they are. However without more stuctured guidance there is even greater need to ensure that your managers have the correct competencies to carry out their management tasks

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