“Work can be a life-draining affair.” —Joseph Campbell

Effective time manage-ment is essential if you wish to be a successful HR executive — and have a life at the same time. According to CEO surveys, when HR professionals focus their time on administrative and compliance duties (positions in which one is particularly likely to say “no”) their companies don’t see them as being strategic partners to the business. The problem is that HR executives spend an average of only 25% of their time on strategic activities. From a career and company goals perspective, this is akin to orchestrating their own demise.

When I advise HR executives to manage their time more effectively by minimizing administrative and compliance activities, I get a variety of “reasons” why they don’t do so:

  • This simply has to get done.
  • Somebody has to do it.
  • I don’t have the time to delegate this right now.
  • There’s nobody else here to do it.
  • I’m not sure I would know how to delegate it properly.
  • I can’t manage the person to whom I delegated it.

These are all poor excuses that can block your career success.

Let’s think about some numbers. Suppose you spend an average of 10 hours a week managing payroll and other administrative tasks. Let’s say you earn $40 per hour (roughly $80,000 per year) and administrative tasks such as this are the least valuable work you do. In fact, it’s work that $20 an hour people can do. On the conservative side, every hour that you do this work, the company loses $20 an hour — which comes to $800 a month or $9,600 a year. If you put this same effort into doing $60 an hour strategic work instead, the company would gain $20 every hour — and you’d be in a far better position to ask for a raise.

Think about it: If you waste 10 hours a week for the next three years, that’s 500 hours this year, and 1,500 hours during the next three years of your life that you’ll never get back! What’s more, this waste will cost the company at least $30,000.

If you label your work as “A”, “B,” and “C” work, you should be spending 80% of your time on A work, 20% on B work — and zero time on C work. Otherwise, you’re spinning your wheels.

C work basically wastes time completely. It’s nothing you can delegate; it’s just something you should stop doing. B work is administrative and can be delegated or outsourced — such as payroll and benefits administration. Focus on A work: What the business needs and what you want to get great at doing. A classic example would be training in a company that’s focused on technological advances.

To determine where your time is going — and should be going — use this checklist:

A-Level Activities:

  • Meeting with the executive team to understand their vision, mission, value, goals, etc.
  • Studying and understanding the company’s strategic plans, financials, succession plan, markets, branding, and other operations.
  • Identifying the critical human resource needs for this organization (surveys, observation, focus groups, interviews, etc.).
  • Input into the company’s overall compensation plan, including pay rates, incentives, bonuses, rewards programs, etc.
  • Creating strategic plans and processes for carrying out top objectives.
  • Developing training plans to support implementation.
  • Input into the company’s overall risk-management plan, including assistance with the purchase of benefit programs, Workers Comp insurance, Cyber Liability insurance, and Employment Practices Liability insurance (EPLI).
  • Creating systems for hiring, performance, retention and compliance.
  • Facilitating creativity, branding, suggestion systems, etc.
  • Implementing any other company strategic objectives to which you can provide input.

B-Level Activities:

  • Payroll and benefits administration.
  • Implementation of hiring, performance, retention and compliance systems.
  • HRIS management.
  • Delivery of training.
  • Creation of employee handbook and executive contracts.
  • Personnel files management.
  • Attendance, vacation, and leave management.
  • COBRA administration.
  • Compliance posters and handouts.

C-Level Activities:

  • Employee dramas.
  • Meetings that go nowhere.
  • Doing any $10-20/hour work.

©2012 Reprinted with permission from HRThatWorks.com, a powerful program designed to inspire great HR practices.