Learning how to prioritize work projects isn’t something you pick up overnight. I was reminded of this when a friend reached out recently and was looking for information on how to make use of a very limited time frame and what equated to an endless list of projects.

How to Prioritize Work Assignments (Video)

In this short video (embedded below; subscribers need to click through to view) I discuss some of the keys to prioritizing work while keeping your managers and project stakeholders happy.

In case you weren’t making notes, those three key points in the video were:

  1. Setting deadlines (and asking for them)
  2. Getting manager feedback
  3. Communicating more often than normal

Nothing earth-shattering in the video, but you’d be amazed at how often the little things like this will make you look like an outstanding professional compared to those who don’t take the time to do this well.

CEO’s Speak Out on How to Prioritize Work

In a previous book review (Perform Like a Rock Star) I pointed out the results of a survey of numerous CEOs:

CEOs rate the top two qualities they say will help someone advance in their career quickly as:
1) the ability to separate the relevant from the irrelevant
2) the ability to get the job done quickly

So, in other words, being able to prioritize and do work quickly will (statistically) be something that your CEO would appreciate. Keep that in mind–it’s a skill you must develop.

How to prioritize work in HR

In the above examples I was talking about some fairly straight forward items. But I’d like to think that HR has a unique twist. How do you prioritize between a safety training class, conducting a sexual harassment investigation, recruiting for a key opening, and answering open enrollment questions?

Yeah, welcome to HR.

Let’s take a consulting role with an outsider’s perspective. Assuming no serious safety or critical legal issues, how do you prioritize work that is a big, jumbled mess? Check out this short paraphrased conversation I had with a friend this week for how I would start approaching a large number of competing priorities.

Hey, Ben. I am about to fly to an out of town location to meet with some of our remote HR people. The last time I spoke to someone in HR there, they indicated that help was needed in their recruitment, onboarding, health/safety, employee engagement and retention, etc. The trouble is that I don’t know where to begin since it sounds like EVERYTHING needs an update Any advice? -P-

It’s a fairly common problem in the HR field to have this sort of thing, so I tried to offer a valuable response without prescribing too much since I am making judgments from a thousand miles away.

This is such an amazing opportunity for you! Wow. The hard part, of course, is prioritizing the various needs and working on the highest impact items first. And how do you prioritize between recruiting, health/safety, and retention? That’s the real question.

Since you’re coming in from the outside, you’ll have to rely heavily on what the people on the ground know and think about the situation. Ask them what key area you need to start with and go from there. One of my favorite questions to ask in that scenario is “What is your biggest frustration with how things are going now? If we could wave a magic wand to change it, what would be the ideal outcome?”

Sometimes with that pair of questions you’ll hear them tell you exactly what you need to start with. It isn’t always that simple, but I’m amazed at how many times it’s worked for me. Most of the time it just takes the right person to ask the right question at the right time. And I think that’s your role in this!

You might also point them to some of the resources on this page. If they are serious about making improvements then I can guarantee they’ll find at least one idea for making positive change within their work group.

Let me know if that helps or if I can answer more. This is such an amazing opportunity for you and I can’t wait to hear how it goes.

Again, that’s my view from outside the organization, but I think it’s a safe place to start and still have the opportunity to get the local HR staff working in the same direction.

Do you have a specific method for how to prioritize work projects? How do you do it?

4 Tips from the Life of a Human Resources Entrepreneur

human resources entrepreneur-secret identityShhh. I have a secret identity. When I’m not working on my blog/business as a human resources entrepreneur, I’m wearing a tie and going to a day job. I love the dual hats I am able to wear, and the experiences from both working a day job and working for myself are doubly exciting.

I also think that I get to make mistakes twice as fast. :-)

I’ve learned some great lessons that I think apply to my daily work in HR. Life as a human resources entrepreneur life isn’t always easy, and there are plenty of pitfalls. I’m going to talk about one of them that translates especially well to the HR profession and then I encourage you to check out the video below for the other three human resources entrepreneur lessons.

Working “on” vs. working “in”

I’m guilty of it. Let’s start off with that.

Do you ever get so bogged down in the day to day that you don’t take the time to step back and make sure that you’re seeing the big picture? I know I do. It’s easy, really. We get comfortable, even when project deadlines are bearing down on us and we feel like we’re fighting a forest fire with a wet towel. We lower our heads and plow through instead of taking the time to work on process improvement or how we can make things better by putting systems in place.

It’s easy, even when work is difficult, to work “in” the department. It’s not just in human resources. Entrepreneur life includes the same challenge.

In the revolutionary book The E-Myth, Michael Gerber talks about how small businesses often fail because the leaders fail to work “on” the business. People get into business for themselves because they enjoy doing something specific–making soap, cleaning houses, or even blogging.

So they focus on that (working “in” the business). At some point they run into a problem and they keep trying to solve it by doing what they’ve always done; however, it’s not the answer. If the entrepreneur doesn’t stop, take stock, and decide what the business needs (working “on” the business), then it’s destined to fail at some point. That’s a simple example, but you get the picture.

If we as HR pros don’t stop and take stock once in a while, then we’re going to be left in the dust. Marketing, finance, IT, etc. all take the time to plan for the future. They look at how they fit into the organization and plan ahead so they are leading the charge, not trying to play catch up. If you’re not making time to work on your HR team (maybe a “state of the HR union address” would be in order?), then you’re going to be left behind.

It might not be today, and it might not be this year, but there will come a time that you are going to wish that you’d taken the time to rise above the daily shuffle to plan ahead and ensure that your work was congruent with the organization’s goals.

I think I’ve made my point on that one. Check out the video for three other lessons learned as a human resources entrepreneur. This life has taught me much (mainly through making plenty of mistakes and learning from them!).

Video: Human resources/entrepreneur lessons

Subscribers click here to view.

(There’s a little bit of echo and the cam shifted to chop my head off after I set it up, but it’s still pretty darn good compared to the early days. I’ve since fixed the echo and head chopping, so there’s a great example of process improvement right there!) :-)

So, what do you think of the human resources entrepreneur lessons I’ve shared? Are you guilty of any of these? Did you learn any lessons that you can take with you into your day job to do it better? Any plans to work “on” the HR function instead of just “in” it?

HR Improv was a session at HRevolution where participants had to present on a slideshow that they had never seen before and somehow tie it back to employee relations, recruiting, etc.

Please forgive the shaky portion of the videos. I grabbed the camera halfway through the session when I realized how hilarious this was going to be. I didn’t have a tripod, so I did the best I could with what I had.

Sean Conrad

Sean Conrad of Halogen Software was one of our volunteers. The random presentation we drew for Sean wasa slideshow invitation to vacation in Nnoordwijk, Holland, and he had to try and relate that to the recruiting and talent management process. The first few minutes of his session were cut off, but this was the winner of the contest, so I wanted to get him a little love anyway! Continue reading

AKA: How to use employment videos for social recruiting

Social recruiting is discussed often, but one of the lesser mentioned facets is video. While many companies know it’s something they should pursue, they don’t know how to be successful. Below you’ll find some ideas to pursue in the area of employer videos. Just a quick word of warning, I’m going to be technical at times, because the subject warrants it. However, I’m happy to help if your organization is looking to make a move into the video arena.

First off, you want your videos to be found when people search Google, right? That’s where search engine optimization comes in. It’s a methodology for getting your videos indexed in a way that makes them easy to find by searchers.

Five tips for Video SEO (search engine optimization)

  1. Make the video something people want to share (more detail on this below).
  2. Don’t dilute your videos by posting on multiple sites (YouTube, Vimeo, Viddler, etc.).
  3. Titles, tags, and descriptions are useful when uploading and posting videos online, but backlinks to the videos (with relevant keywords in the anchor text) are more important for search engine rankings.
  4. YouTube is the #2 search engine in the world and the #1 for videos. Use that to your advantage.
  5. If you’re using WordPress as your content distribution platform, create a video sitemap and submit it via Google Webmaster Tools. Every little bit helps!

Now, let’s elaborate on #1 above. That’s usually the first question people have: what do the videos need to be about? Well, there are several ways to go with that, but I like to think of two kinds of people when considering these types of video: customers and potential job candidates. Think about what they would like to know about your company and give it to them!

Five ideas for your employment video content

  1. Interview employees and ask what they do and what they like about the job, dept, or company
  2. Get staff members to discuss the culture and how that affects what they do.
  3. Ask employees to talk about their favorite benefit/perk that you offer.
  4. Film the fun, unique events that make your organization special.
  5. Create content that is outward facing and valuable to your industry. Hint: if you’re providing thought leadership and value at a level that entices competitors to link to you, then you’re on the right track.

This list certainly isn’t all-inclusive, but it’s a great start to generating ideas that would specifically benefit your company.

Thinking about creating some employer branding videos for your company and looking for some help? Feel free to contact me if you’re looking for assistance. 

the levity effect book reviewI have read The Levity Effect: Why It Pays to Lighten Up, and I think it’s a fantastic book for people to read in order to understand the impact that humor and levity can have in the workplace. Scott Christopher, the author of the book and speaker at the session, had so many fantastic quips and quotes that it might as well have been a comedy session with some learning thrown in. It was phenomenal and I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed hearing him speak.

One of our core values is to have a safe and enjoyable workplace. That’s why we have photos of office staff in men’s helicopter flight suits and videos of bagpipers playing in our lobby. We take the enjoyable part very seriously. Well, not so seriously. Anyway, you get the point.

Five quick points:

  1. Figure out what’s fun and share that (healing patients vs. serving food, building relationships vs. recruiting candidates, etc.)
  2. Herb Kelleher-Southwest Airlines-order of recruiting importance from least to greatest: education, experience, humor Continue reading

Think  this social recruiting thing is a fad? 80% of employers are using it in some form or fashion to find talent, so that theory doesn’t fly. Check out the video below for more observations from the new Jobvite report on the state of social recruiting.

Email subscribers need to click through to view the video.

Today I’m going to make the case for leadership development at all levels, not just at the top of the organization. Think about it, do you want those employees positioned closest to your customers to have that training? I would. Yes, it’s a question of cost for many companies, but if your customer-facing people aren’t doing the right thing, then cost won’t matter when you lose the customers!

That was just a taste of what you’ll find in the video below. Subscribers may need to click through to view.

(Fair warning, the video sometimes is skippy and doesn’t seem to align with the audio track, but the info’s still thought-provoking!)