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How to... do more for less

Times will be tough for a while yet and HR will be asked, and asked again, to do more for less. The function needs to respond with positive, effective answers - if it doesn't HR will be considered naive, difficult and irrelevant. Unfortunately, a decade of economic boom and spending has left many professionals with a lack of personal experience of delivering more for less.

1 Acknowledge change

Be clear about what HR needs to do to really make a difference in the business. Do a fresh assessment of the situation to recognise the areas that are different in this tougher economic climate. Start by asking business managers what they think is more and less commercially important today. Explore and challenge business plans to identify the people issues, and work out HR's new priorities. Expect a few surprises - better basics (for example, performance management, job training) are often really important.

2 Set bold targets

Don't be afraid to set big goals, which say what HR will deliver in measured commercial terms. This makes HR indispensable and focused. Examples of targets could include: improved customer service, stronger sales and quicker process. Check your goals aren't all "less for less"; ensure you have a balance of goals that add value and those that reduce costs.

3 Brainstorm for opportunity

It's so easy to trim budgets, try to carry on, and to miss the big opportunities. To avoid this situation brainstorm projects which might be steps towards your goals; for example, changed roles, better information, more training, new feedback and effective rewards. Then, list all the projects and processes HR currently funds, such as case management and recruitment. Expect lots of ideas - writing them on Post-it notes helps organise things.

4 Pick goal-orientated projects

Be tough on yourself - reject every project (written on the Post-it notes) except those you know will be steps toward your goals, and be delivered within your timeline. There's no point in projects which "only might work" and those which "will take too long". For bigger, complex projects throw out the less effective parts and ask, for example, which elements of your development centre do and don't improve performance. Use arrows between Post-it notes to show the links between projects and goals.

5 Reinforce project links

HR projects that support one another are much more effective than isolated interventions - the research on this is conclusive. For example, performance review, 360 feedback, development centres, succession planning and mentoring should all link and exchange information and resources. To help emphasise this use arrows to link how projects reinforce one another. Then question poorly supported projects - anything peripheral is likely to be costly and unsuccessful.

6 Drum up support

Many HR launches are just short workshops that fail to build the substantial political support among staff and colleagues that is needed to deliver change. Win support by demonstrating that there's a big, urgent problem, for example use figures and anecdotes to show how bad things are, and how much better comparable organisations are. Get influential managers on side and ask for their advice and vocal support to persuade others. Ensure changes are implemented quickly with senior managers taking very visible leads.

7 Get the credit

Go out of your way to demonstrate what you've achieved. An HR team that doesn't trumpet its successes doesn't win the credibility, influence and ultimately resources it deserves. At the beginning of your more for less programme work out a publicity plan, and confidently tell senior managers when and how you will demonstrate your successes. That's what finance, IT, sales and other departments will do.

Key Points:

- Assess what HR has to do to make a big difference;
- Set stretching goals, and brainstorm how to meet them;
- Organise the best ideas as joined-up packages;
- Lobby and haggle to win essential political support;
- Go big on publicity.