Skip to Main Content
Filter By +
Topic +

How to Get Organized and Create More Bandwidth as an HR Business Partner

If you’re like most HR leaders, you’re constantly asking how can you spend more time on the strategic and relational parts of your role rather than the dreaded paper pushing. But while the typical HR department still spends nearly 60% of their time on transactional and operational HR, the best spend less than 40% of their time and resources on those tasks, according to research from McKinsey.

What more could you do with that time? Your team?

Efficiently using your time and staying organized will help you make an impact as a leader within HR and your entire company. When you make the most out of your own finite resources – your time and energy – you can help your team manage their own resources well. That includes their own time and energy, plus the technology they need to do their jobs. Your HR department’s increased efficiency will lead to greater bandwidth for your team to provide strategic personnel solutions to the challenges your entire company faces.

Don’t know where to begin? These steps will walk you through the process – starting with your own time and your own desk, and working outward to impact the whole company. Let’s jump in.

Step 1: Start by strategically managing your time.

When you’re stowing luggage and buckling in at the beginning of a flight, what point of the safety message do the flight attendants stress over everything else? If there’s an emergency, fix your own oxygen mask first. Then you’re able to help those around you.

Your time and resource management might not be at emergency status – though it may feel that way some days – but the principle holds true. Renew your focus on your own time management, and you’ll have more energy, bandwidth and, yes, minutes in the day, to help your team manage their responsibilities. Here are some time-tested ways to take control of your time.

Renewed focus on managing your own time gives you more energy and bandwidth to help your team manage their responsibilities.

Take 10-15 minutes at the start or end of the day to focus on your priorities.

What’s truly urgent? What has to get done immediately, and what can you postpone or delegate in order to accomplish the day’s crucial tasks? Review your meetings as well, and determine what you need to prepare to be ready for them. Taking a short amount of time can help you ensure you work toward your true priorities during the rest of the day. This is a great exercise to encourage your team to complete as well.

Minimize multitasking.

You probably know this intuitively, even if you haven’t seen the research: Multitasking doesn’t work. In fact, you can lose up to 40% of your productivity when you try to juggle multiple projects at the same time. Try these tactics to pare it down where you can.

  • Finish a few tasks rather than starting several. Create a “today” list for tasks you have to do today and a “to-do” list for the rest of the things you want to get done. Feel free to add to your “to-do” list when something comes to mind, but wait to take action until you are at a stopping point, except in a true emergency.
  • Tune out distractions. Block time for tasks that are both difficult and important. These tend to get pushed aside in favor of urgent tasks that are actually less important and keep you from making progress on your priorities.
  • Optimize your workspace. Organize your desk and files (more on that later) and close the office door when you’ve blocked out time for difficult tasks. Use headphones if you work in a more open floor plan.

Step 2. Organize your email and files – and keep them that way.

When you have a handle on your time, shift your organizational laser beam toward your workspace – your desk and computer and everything they represent, such as your email, files and HCM technology. First up: email.

Keep email from taking over your life.

Set aside certain times of the day exclusively to respond to email. Many people find that first thing in the morning, after lunch and an hour or less before leaving for the day keeps them in the loop. You don’t have to be unavailable outside of those times, but let your team know that’s when you’ll do the bulk of responding. Communicating this explicitly can help you manage expectations, and provides an opportunity for your team members to exercise agency in identifying issues they can resolve independently.

Similarly, exit out of your email when you have very important tasks you need to do without interruption. Make sure your team knows to call you or find you in person if there’s an emergency during those times so you don’t spend energy worrying about missing something important.

Manage your files.

Keep files secure. You’ll want separate locations (either physically or digitally) for different types of employee files. Keep each of these types of forms in separate locations for compliance purposes:

  • personnel files
  • payroll record files
  • employee medical records
  • employee injury, safety and worker’s compensation records
  • I-9 files

If you’re collecting files manually, ensure you store them in a secure location that’s still easy to access when employees need to retrieve their HR information.

  • Keep these files safe from theft and water and fire damage.
  • Make sure these documents are accessible physically only to the employees who need to retrieve them, such as HR and payroll professionals. You may want to create a system to keep track of file updates, especially if you have multiple HR professionals accessing the documents, so you can verify who made any changes and when.
  • Your employees may need to access their own HR information to update addresses, add dependents or make other similar changes, so in order to preserve document control, your HR department will need to designate a significant amount of time to help employees make these changes.

An alternative solution is using an HCM software that stores all employee forms securely in the cloud, safe from damage or theft. This ensures each file will be available to the employees who need access to it, but no others. Be sure to choose a provider with state-of-the-art data security so you don’t add one more source of anxiety. This technology enables employees to make changes to their personal information securely, without interrupting HR or viewing information they don’t need access to.

HR technology that operates as a single database, all in a single app without disparate features cobbled together, provides added time savings. When something like an employee address or position change is updated in one part of the system, it’s seamlessly populated system-wide, freeing up your HR professionals to concentrate on strategic initiatives, interact with employees or solve business issues.

Efficient record keeping frees your HR pros to concentrate on strategic initiatives, interact with employees or solve business issues.

This saves you time, certainly – but eliminating unnecessary, inefficient manual processes saves you money, as well. A recent study by EY found that companies lose significant amounts of money by relying on manual processes.

For example, a company with 600 employees using manual processes for time management will spend $175,704 simply completing and submitting timecards manually. That doesn’t include the time spent correcting erroneous timecards, gathering timesheets or processing PTO.

Step 3. Provide personnel solutions to business challenges.

Don’t just lead your own department well – help HR become a department that provides strategic value to the rest of the company. When your resources are managed efficiently, you can use your time, energy and expertise to help other departments make better-informed business decisions.

Use your time, energy and expertise to help other departments make better-informed decisions.

You, and your HR department, are the experts in identifying people-focused solutions to the myriad issues businesses face. And when you and your team are organized from your desks to your tech, you have the necessary bandwidth to develop and pitch these solutions to business leaders. McKinsey defines  HR business partners as “senior HR individuals who counsel managers on talent issues,” and even goes so far as to call them “Talent Value Leaders.”

To effectively work with company leaders as an HR business partner, you must:

Become well-versed in the business aspect of your organization.

Know the strengths and weaknesses of your company and your competition. Shadow the front line employees to really get to understand what they do day in and day out. Set up conversations with business unit leaders to understand the challenges they face. Suggest resolutions they may not have considered, such as additional staff development opportunities, employee engagement tactics and best-practices on giving and receiving feedback.

Identify where business issues in your organization boil down to employee issues.

Help leaders understand the personnel problems that may be driving low sales, poor customer service or other operational concerns through data, reports and analytics rather than just gut feelings. Offer HR-informed solutions to the issues frustrating your peers and leaders.

Know your company’s niche.

Identify what, from a talent perspective, could help strengthen your company’s position. Investing in an additional talent pipeline to reach an emerging market or new vertical? Re-assigning some employees to a business unit that needs more staff to increase profitability? Identifying costly pockets of employee turnover and suggesting remedies?


Effectively using the time, energy and technology available to you can help you leverage your leadership ability and help your HR department prove its value to the company at large. When you and your team are at your sharpest, you can find the time and energy necessary to create a meaningful impact that ripples well beyond HR. That means you can help other leaders understand that business issues are often people issues – and your team is ready to help solve them.