Keeping Your Annual HR Plan on Track as Competing (and Unexpected) Priorities Arise

You spent much of Q4 developing a plan for the upcoming year that outlined your department’s top priorities, the strategies you’d employ to accomplish them and how you’d report your successes to leadership. Then, the new year started, day-to-day work started piling up and new initiatives got handed down, many of which are at odds with the plan you’d set for the year. Fast forward to a month or more into the year, and you’re wondering how to get your plan back on track. Does this sound familiar?

Your situation may not be as dire as this scenario, but it’s not at all uncommon for annual plans to get waylaid by factors like those listed above. As frustrating as these setbacks can be, it’s important not to get discouraged and just push your plans aside, hoping next year will be better.

There are several questions you can ask to be more proactive when new projects and initiatives are handed down, especially those that could overburden your team and cause your plans to spiral.

Is your department overcommitted?

Some organizations can be a bit “initiative happy,” for lack of a better phrase – meaning, seemingly every other week, there’s a new project or initiative designed to improve the business. New ideas certainly are not a bad thing, but when they come at a pace that’s faster than what employees can keep up with, work – and morale – tends to wane.

If your organization is prone to starting new initiatives or projects that often outpace your team’s bandwidth, start by maintaining a clearer understanding of what your department currently is working on and the needed resources and manpower to do those effectively.

This will take time, but it will help you have a better understanding of your team’s commitments and where there’s room for more initiatives to take place.

If we take this on, how much additional budget do we have?

Rarely can new projects be accomplished without some additional resources, whether it’s a budget to hire staff and invest in new services or reallocating team members’ hours. When new projects are handed down, be sure to ask about what resources and budget are available to accomplish them.

Sometimes, the available budget doesn’t align with the wants and desires of those who are handing down the new project or mandate. If that is the case, take time to outline what realistically can be accomplished with the stated budget – and what else could be done if more was available.

If there’s no additional budget, what efforts can we give up or postpone?

More often than not, there isn’t an additional budget for more staff and resources to accommodate the new initiative without scaling back work elsewhere. In these instances, it’s critical to have a candid conversation upfront about what other work will need to be scaled back to give the new project enough attention.

Some HR professionals may be inclined to “be a good sport” and just make it work, especially when leadership may imply that’s what is expected. While this may seem like the easiest path in the short term, it invariably leads to bigger problems down the road. First, productivity begins to drop considerably the more employees work past 50 hours a week, according to Entrepreneur.com. Second, workload and time pressures are among the most common reasons for employee burnout, an issue 40% of workers experience.

Navigating these discussions isn’t always the easiest, but there is one guiding question that is effective for bringing everyone onto the same page: what’s the business impact of the different projects? While all may seem equally important, when you start assessing how each one relates to and impacts the company’s overarching business goals, it becomes much clearer what efforts could be scaled back or tabled until more bandwidth or resources become available.

At what point do we abandon a project?

Additionally, part of the problem is letting projects linger longer than they should. This can happen for many reasons: clear metrics were never established to evaluate its success, someone is personally invested in it and doesn’t want to see it go away, etc.. Whatever the reason, identifying and addressing projects that are no longer effective can go a long way toward freeing up time and resources for your staff to focus on tasks that truly benefit the business. Work with your leadership to develop a recurring review process to see how different efforts are performing and if any adjustments should be made to make better use of the organization’s resources.

Demonstrating your understanding of business issues

As we covered in our last post, there’s a lot HR can do to demonstrate its importance to leadership. While it may seem like many of the recommendations listed above could put you at odds with leadership, when done well, they actually can help demonstrate your understanding of which business goals matter most and how to best utilize the organization’s resources and expenses – all of which helps improve your department’s stature among your C-suite.

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Do you need help assessing your team’s relocation and mobility efforts to get a better sense for how they are benefiting your organization? We specialize in policy review and performance and can help your organization glean the right insights to make decisions to improve your business.


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