How to improve HR efficiency by adopting ‘top-of-license’ practice

Expert Insight

How to improve HR efficiency by adopting ‘top-of-license’ practice

Across campus, the focus of department efficiency efforts is typically centered on fixing broken or outdated processes. However, in HR, one of the biggest contributors to inefficiency is staff performing lower-level work.

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What’s slowing down highly skilled staff?

For senior staff, completing lower-level tasks and responding to routine customer inquiries is very time consuming, and distract from or disrupt more complex, high-priority activities.

Breakdown of senior staff time

Breakdown of senior staffs' time

To ensure optimal staff efficiency at all levels, HR must promote “top-of-license” practice. Prevalent in the health care industry, this practice advocates that every worker only perform the activities for which her or she is qualified (or licensed), and not tasks an employee at a lower level can do.

Realigning HR staff responsibilities by skill level

Realigning HR staff responsibilities by skill level

Two strategies for implementing top-of-license practice

The most effective strategy for promoting top-of-license practice is to delegate cumbersome transactional work to a smaller segment of lower-skilled HR staff. HR leaders can begin by identifying the two sources of transactional work that most often pull senior staff away from their typical responsibilities.

1. Incoming customer requests

Campus faculty and employees regularly call and email HR with a wide range of personal inquiries and other support requests, which are often directed to the wrong staff person. University of Minnesota overcame this challenge with the creation of a service desk, manned by entry-level HR staff; it serves as the single point of customer contact. For more information, see Tiered Request Service Desk (p. 89).

2. Recurrent internal processing

HR departments dedicate considerable time to keeping employees current and ensuring institutional compliance, which often consumes more senior-level time than necessary. Concordia University and UT Brownsville both created dedicated HR processing units within the HR department to absorb the bulk of these predictable and repeated transactional tasks. For more information, see Internal HR Processing Unit (p. 97).

Driving efficiency is only the first step in elevating HR’s strategic role

As the primary “people function,” HR often lacks the capacity to focus on more strategic priorities. Access our full study, The High-Efficiency HR Department, to learn more about the 12 best practices for increasing HR productivity and capacity for strategic, cross-campus support.

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