Unique and Innovative HR Practices: Doing More with Less

Got budget?

You’re not alone. Corporate belts are cinching all across America. While a few unfortunate companies are struggling for survival itself, nearly all organizations are looking for ways to become leaner. The solution, however, isn’t as simple as cutting HR budgets by 15 percent. A company can be facing contraction and experiencing growing pains, at the same time. Staffers at my company, OHM (Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment, Inc.) are working twice as hard, just to maintain last year’s revenue. At the same time, we’re growing geographically and adding new services to our offering. These conflicting challenges force us to look beyond simple budget and staff reductions to reengineer our human resource practices. And we’re not alone.

Across the HR field, companies are finding creative ways to “do more with less.” Following are four simple ideas you can use to help you reengineer HR:

-¢ Analyze Your HR Practices
-¢ Develop a Strategic HR Plan
-¢ Embrace Technology
-¢ Leverage Your Resources

Analyze Your HR Practices
Everyone gets stuck in a rut. You are so busy getting the work done that you have little time to think about the big picture or the smaller details. Reach out for another pair of eyes to give you a fresh perspective. One of the most valuable tools to help you gain insight is an HR audit. Find an HR expert to review and evaluate your company’s HR operations, top to bottom. You’ll uncover those compliance risks that can derail an organization, learn how your company’s practices compare to industry leaders and get a host of new ideas to improve your results. Recently OHM used free safety consulting services, offered by the State of Michigan, to develop a comprehensive internal and external safety plan. The results? We minimized risk and saved cold cash through reduced rates for worker’s compensation insurance.

Develop a Strategic HR Plan
You want senior leadership to understand that HR brings value beyond the basic hiring and firing functions. A strategic HR plan aligns the department’s goals with those of the organization. When a regional service firm created a five-year strategic plan to expand its single-state presence to the entire Midwest through a series of acquisitions, the HR executive created a plan to support those goals. She focused on learning the employment laws in the new states, securing regional benefit brokers and creating step-by-step processes to integrate the acquired staff members.

Embrace Technology
Technology can streamline HR workflow, provide communication and accessibility to a non-centralized workforce and allow your staff greater flexibility. Some great technological time-savers are: web-based payroll and HR Management System applications, employee intranets and electronic applicant tracking systems. At OHM, we partnered with our IT department to create a simple intranet-based tool for employees to make annual benefit selections. Going electronic with this process saved us more than 50 hours annually by eliminating the production, collection and tabulation of paper benefit enrollment forms from multiple offices. The electronic entry system also reduced errors by 92 percent, resulting in additional time saved.

Leverage Your Resources
This concept is about accomplishing HR objectives, especially those strategic goals, more efficiently. Break free of traditional practices. Rather than hiring a new staff member, consider alternate forms of employment, such as payrolling. Payrolling is the practice of referring a contingent worker to a staffing vendor or payroll provider. The vendor acts as the employer of record, responsible for employer taxes, payroll and all legal matters pertaining to employing workers, thereby reducing contingent workforce costs.

Your company’s employees can be an invaluable resource, too. When Paul Levy, president and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston challenged the hospital’s staff to volunteer creative cost saving ideas, he received hundreds of suggestions. Using those ideas, BIDMC was able to save enough expenses to reduce necessary layoffs from 600 to 150.

In another cost-savings example, Workforce Management (June 2009, Speizer) highlights the case of Florida Power & Light (FPL), which put its benefit plan out to bid, rather than just renewing with existing providers. FPL forced vision, dental and other benefit providers to openly compete using an auction-style process. Cost savings are estimated to be $1.1 million annually.

Don’t overlook the importance of employee morale during an uncertain economy.

Enterprising HR departments can give employees valuable benefits without blowing the budget. OHM offers its staffers bi-monthly brown bag lunch time enrichment events, led by local vendors, experts and service providers. These vendors deliver their programs at no or nominal charge to the company. Topics can be work-related subjects such as time management and presentation skills, or take a personal bent, such as choosing a workout program or creating a will.

Times are tough all across America. Just as the bankruptcy of Chrysler and GM is forcing the Detroit Three to reinvent themselves, human resource leaders can use these four concepts to reengineer their service offering. Leaner, stronger and faster -“ no matter what business you’re in, those are goals we all share.

Kelly Jackson is the human resources director for OHM (Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment, Inc.). OHM is a two-time Elite Winner of Metro Detroit’s 101 Best & Brightest Companies to Work For in the Community Initiatives category. Jackson can be reached at [email protected].