7 Steps to Completing an Effective and Strategic HR Assessment

By Lori Kleiman

Why assess? It’s not about being right or wrong—it’s about being aware.  Evaluation allows you to identify weaknesses and confirm that your HR function is in compliance with relevant laws and policies.  It is critical that all managers look at their programs and process on a regular basis as processes and needs of the organization can change through time.   Constant evaluation is a critical component of success.  Human Resources is no different, and with our compliance obligations, even more critical.

What is an audit or assessment?

The definition of an audit is a planned and documented activity performed by qualified personnel to determine by investigation, examination, or evaluation of objective evidence, the adequacy and compliance with established procedures, or applicable documents, and the effectiveness of implementation.
An assessment generally involves an audit, but its purpose is to provide measurement rather than just to express an option.  We generally find the two terms used in an interchangeable way in Human Resources.  In both reviews, the goal should be to identify successes and opportunities for improvement.

How do I do it myself?

Your HR audit should proceed in an objective and linear fashion.  Outlined below you will find seven steps in completing an effective assessment of your HR function.

  1. Purpose—Define the reason you are undertaking this project.  Do you want to understand compliance, best practices, strategy, or another issue that may be facing your organization?  Once you have clearly defined the goal of the initiative, you can move onto the next steps.
  2. Scope—A full-scale assessment can be a daunting task.  Consider if your focus should be one functional area of HR, or the full lifecycle of employment. If compliance is the main concern, consider a recordkeeping audit as a first step. If your organization has a budget for the assessment, you might be able to conduct a full-scale assessment utilizing external resources.
  3. Process—Be very deliberate in outlining the procedure for the assessment.  You will want to alert members of the leadership team you will be evaluating processes and speaking to members of their team during the assessment.  Consider a project kick off meeting to invite team members to buy into the initiative.
  4. Data collection—Collecting the data can be the most time consuming part of the assessment.  Work with your internal teams and provide specific guidelines and deadlines based on your requirements.  Where the budget allows, consider external sources for benchmarking of critical data.
  5. Analysis—Being able to objectively review your findings is a critical piece of the assessment.  Consider involving additional resources such as peers in the HR community or trusted advisors such as an attorney or accountant.
  6. Action plans—Your action plans should be appropriate for your audience.  The plans presented to the executive team should be at a very high level and provide confidence that compliance is in order—or how you are handling the issues you found.  Your own action plans should be more detailed and identify the resources you need and timeline of expected completion.
  7. Evaluate—As with any new initiative, review the successes and failures of the assessment project.  A 3-month timeline is generally appropriate to take a step back and consider what went well and what might be improved.

Is it really worth the effort?

An assessment can be a daunting task.  You will find that while it takes time and energy away from other projects, it will provide depth of knowledge into your HR function that you may have even forgotten existed.  At the same time, and assessment should be used to ensure that HR is strategically aligned with your organizations goals and providing the services required to move the organization forward.  Finally, we would encourage you to think of the assessment as a way for you to gain visibility as leader in your organization focused on organizational triggers.

Lori Kleiman Lori Kleiman is a business expert with more than 25 years of experience advising companies on HR issues. Her background as a human resources professional and entrepreneur gives her unique insight on how HR professionals and executives can work together effectively to achieve business goals.

Her programs are designed to provide critical HR updates and best practices to small businesses. Lori has a master’s degree in Human Resources, has been certified as SPHR and SHRM-SCP and is a member of the National Speakers Association.  Receive a complementary HR Assessment guide from Lori at www.hrtopics.com.