Fay Wallis: Welcome back to HR Coffee Time. It's great to have you here. I'm your host, Fay Wallis, a career and executive coach with a background in HR, and I'm also the creator of the HR Planner. I've made this podcast especially for you, to help you have a successful and fulfilling HR or People career, without working yourself into the ground.
And I'm going to start off today by asking you a question. Do you have any big annual projects coming up? Projects that you only need to do once a year? Projects that can feel a bit daunting because you do only need to do them once a year? So it can feel hard to remember all the moving parts involved in them and exactly what it is that you have to get done and in what order. Or perhaps you've just finished working on one.
I know that this time of year as we move towards Christmas can start to feel really busy. Maybe your end of year performance management process is looming or you're working towards launching an Annual Employee Engagement Survey, or maybe you run a graduate recruitment scheme that starts up in January.
I know that the possibilities for projects you might be working on are endless, whether they're big ones or little ones. If you have got a project coming up, or you've just finished working on one, I hope this episode is going to help you do a brilliant job with it, without feeling stressed and without getting overwhelmed.
is getting the HR Planner for:
Hooray! It's a huge relief! I've put so much work into it and I can't wait to share it with you. If you haven't heard of the HR Planner before, there are two versions of it. There's a free, slimmed down version of it that you can download as a PDF, and there's also a more comprehensive, hardback version that sits on your desk next to you and acts as your trusty companion throughout the year.
Both versions are filled with templates, tools, and planning resources to help you set your career and work goals for the year and stay organized throughout the year. You can review your progress and amend your goals and your workload as you go. There are lots of different sections in it, including a goal setting section at the front, a key HR tasks checklist to help you remember all the things that you need to get done throughout the year, and there's also a monthly calendar section that is filled with awareness dates, well being dates and inclusion dates.
But although I knew I was nearly at the sign off point with the printers earlier on this week, I suddenly found myself feeling like a rabbit caught in headlights. Which is not a nice feeling. I sat at my desk thinking, where on earth do I start? There is just so much to do. Because getting the planner finalized and printed is a big job in itself.
But now that it is finished, there are all these other things connected with it that I need to get cracking with. I've got to get new photographs taken of it. I need to update the website with the new photography and new descriptions about the planner because I've added a lot to it this year. I need to set up an automation.
So if you sign up to receive the free slimmed down PDF version of the planner, it will arrive in your inbox straight away and you'll get some follow up emails. And I need to set up payment links, so if you want to buy a hardback copy, or lots of copies, and have them delivered to you, I can do that as well.
And there are a whole load of other things. But luckily for me, I've moved past that horrible feeling of paralysis, because I decided to take a step back and map out all of the steps I've taken so far this year with it and all the steps I have left to take to create a simple process plan that I can finish working my way through this year and then have it ready to use again next year.
I found it such a helpful thing to do that I thought I'd share this approach with you today in the hope that it will help you too, even though the projects you have on your plate will probably be very different to mine.
Although you probably have processes and procedures set up at work, you won't have them in place for everything, and they may be quite high level, which means they're not going into the granular detail that is really helpful when you're sitting down and you need to get cracking with a project, but you can't remember which folder on your computer has got some of the key resources saved that you need to get your hands on.
Or you can't remember which email you sent out to everyone in the organisation that you were really pleased you wrote last year and you'd like to use again. Or you can't remember how you were tracking one particular aspect of the project. Was it in a spreadsheet? If it was, where is that spreadsheet? Or maybe you know that last year you'd set yourself some mini deadlines that were really helpful and helped you get everything finished on time, but you can't remember what those were.
That is where a simple process plan can be such a big help. I haven't had formal project management training so I can start to feel a bit daunted if people start talking about creating Gantt charts or detailed project plans and for some reason I don't find traditional process maps particularly easy to read.
But I had a business mentor called Naz a while ago now and she shared a simple process template with me that she uses in her business. Thank you Naz if you ever listened to this episode. I loved her template straight away because it looked easy to follow and really easy to set up. I adapted it slightly and then I put it into action for the first time when my grown up stepdaughter Katie started helping me with the podcast and I had to hand part of the podcasting process over to her.
Katie had never done any work like it before so it was all completely new to her but having the simple process plan in place meant that she was up and running with it in no time at all. And handily, it has also meant that whenever she goes on holiday, I can pick up the process easily myself and remember everything that I should be doing.
I'll talk you through the layout and how it works now, and if you want me to send you an example template, that's no problem at all. Just send me an email. You can always find my email address in the show notes And I'll send you a blank version so that you can try it out for yourself. Obviously in your role you aren't going to have to worry about working on a podcast publishing process but the format can be used for any process or project at all. So before I start talking it through I'd love to ask you to just take a moment to think of an annual project you're working on at the moment, or one that you're about to work on, or one that you've just worked on.
Or if there aren't any annual projects springing to mind, just think of something that seems to be taking you ages and feels like hard work. It could be something you do week in week out, or it could just be something that you do occasionally. Okay, hopefully you now have got that project or process in mind.
As I talk you through my podcast publishing process as an example, try to imagine how you could use the format to capture your process and make a simple process plan. You might also find it handy to have a pen and paper with you so you can jot down any ideas you have. Or you could open up the Notes app in your phone so you can tap in some notes there instead.
So, the document I use is a Microsoft Word document and it starts with the title at the top of the page. So for the one with Katie that I'm talking about at the moment, it just has the words Podcast Publishing Process written across the top. And I have it saved in a folder with all my other processes so it's easy to find.
Then the next thing on the page is a subtitle which is called Useful Links and Resources for this process. Sitting underneath that subtitle is a bullet pointed list of resources that are mentioned throughout the whole document. The list is hyperlinked, so Katie will be taken straight through to the relevant resource if she clicks on one.
To give you some examples of what's in that list, there's a link to an Excel file called Podcast schedule, which has got the name of each episode listed in it, the date it was released or is due to be released, and there's a link to each episode in there. So it's a really handy Excel document for me to have and for Katie to have, and that's because part of the process involves Katie updating the podcast schedule each week.
So by having a link to it in that resources section, I know she's not got to go hunting around for it. All she's got to do is click and she's straight through. There's also a link that takes her straight to the login page of my website for when she needs to add the latest podcast episode artwork to the website for me.
And there are lots of other links, but hopefully that's starting to give you an idea. Then underneath all of those useful links and resources, there is a simple table. And it's the table that is the main thing we're going to be looking at today. It's just made up of three columns. The title of the first column is Step, and the rows underneath this are numbered sequentially from 1 onwards.
So the first row has a number 1 for step 1, the second row has a number 2 for step 2, the third row has a number 3 for step 3, and it goes on and on for all the steps that are involved. It acts like a checklist, so if you wanted to, you could print the document off and just tick off each step as you go.
The title of the middle column is Action and the rows under this have got the details of what is needed for each step. So, the action for step one in the process is for me to record the podcast. The action for step two in the process is for the podcast to be edited and then it goes on and on and on.
Then, the title of the final column in the table is Responsible Person. And the rows sitting underneath this are populated with the names of each person who is responsible for each of the steps. So, for step one, which is record the podcast, the responsible person for this is me. For step two, which is edit the podcast, there are two people in that, there's me, I'm responsible for solo episodes, and Chris, my podcast editor, is responsible for guest episodes.
Then the steps carry on until they get to the part where Katie takes over at step eight. We generate a transcript for each episode of the podcast, and Katie is responsible for formatting it and uploading it so that it will appear perfectly on the website. This is where I've added in something to the process that I want to share with you in case it's helpful for your work.
When Katie takes over at step eight she has to do something a little bit technical. There are a few steps involved, there's a particular format to follow, there's a particular place she's got to go to upload the transcript. So written in the action column for this step are the words format the transcript file, and upload it to podcast hosting platform.
But what makes this different to the rest of the steps so far is that it's hyperlinked. So whenever Katie clicks on it, or if I click on it, if I'm looking after the process and she's on holiday, the link will take her straight through to a video recording of my computer screen, where I demonstrate and talk through exactly what to do.
So she can see me opening up the transcript, well, opening up an example of a transcript. Formatting the transcript. Uploading the transcript. Talking the whole time, so she can hear my voice talking over the video and explaining exactly what the steps are that she has to do. It's only a really short video, but it's so much quicker to do that than taking screenshots of all the actions and having to suddenly turn that process document into a really, really long document that looks and feels a bit overwhelming and just takes too long to create.
I can't emphasise enough just how helpful having little video recordings like this can be. They have been an absolute game changer for me. I've ended up using them all the time. Even if I have a question for my accountant, I'll often end up sending him a little video of where I'm stuck in the software that we use for all of the accounting.
And he's said, Fay, you're the only person who sends me these little videos, but they're really helpful. So. Coming back to the process plan for a moment though, instead of sitting there thinking how do I do that again? Where do I click? What system should I be in? Where did I save that? What format do I need to use?
All I have to do is watch the video and I'm instantly reminded. Now, of course, if you're using the simple process plan for an everyday process, you'll find you probably don't need to watch the videos after a little while, because you know it all off by heart, because you're doing it all the time. Just looking at the rest of the plan using it as a checklist is going to be enough to remind you because they are tasks that you're doing all the time.
But I'd still encourage you to record the videos because they're so helpful if you ever need to delegate the process to someone else. But, of course, the main point of the podcast today is to talk to you about an annual project or an annual process that you have to follow. And in these instances, I think these videos are just an invaluable way of saving you time.
If you've never made videos like this before, they're called screen recordings. There are lots of free tools that you can use to do this. I use one that is called Vimeo Record, but I know that there's another one called Loom that is really popular. Lots of people use that. I'll put links to both of those things in the show notes for you so you can take a look at them if you haven't used them before.
But of course you can always ask your IT team if there's something that they'd recommend or prefer you to use for your organisation. So, when I started feeling overwhelmed this week, and like I was never going to get everything done, and I was really unsure about what step to take next or where to start, when all the small tasks involved with the HR planner felt like they were competing for my attention, I took a deep breath, and thought, right, I'm going to create a simple process plan for this.
I probably spent about an hour or so getting everything down that I could think of onto the page. I suppose it was like a bit of a structured brain dump. If I realised I'd forgotten a step or two when I was writing it down, it didn't matter because I could just easily move things around in the template, copying and pasting things until I had all of the steps down accurately.
And it was such a good reminder for me for how helpful it is to just take things one step at a time. As I was able to put all my jumbled thoughts into order, I could see which next step to take first and that feeling of paralysis or like being a rabbit is caught in the headlights just started disappearing.
Thank goodness. Then, as I started working my way through the actions, I started creating short videos of anything technical, or anything that I knew there was a risk I would forget when it comes to releasing the HR Planner again next year. I also ended up adding in an extra column into my table in the template, so that I could add dates in.
This turned it into a bit more of a Project plan really, rather than just a process plan. I got my own copy of my HR Planner out, and I looked through the calendar for next year, and I figured out exactly when I need to complete each of the steps in the process next year. And I've even started blocking out time in my calendar for next year, so that when the project rolls around for me again next year, I know I have got dedicated time carved out at the right points and that I will start working on it earlier next year so it doesn't feel quite so stressful and quite such a rush at the end.
release of the HR Planner for:
You don't have to worry about adding in dates as well into your simple process plan if that's going to start making this feel overwhelming. Just start off with the other three columns and you can always add in the dates next time when you come to look at your simple process plan this time next year.
There is no need to worry about getting this perfect. Just get it to a point where it's useful and you can then build on it or refine it and improve it in the future. It's better to have something done than nothing at all. And I thought I would finish wrapping up by just talking through the reasons that I think using the simple process plan has been so helpful for me and why I also think it can be really helpful for you.
The first reason is that writing down all the steps you need to take in a sequential order gives you clarity. There is a great quote that I saw this week from productivity expert Tiago Forte and he says that procrastination is a silent message from our brains that we either don't have enough clarity to complete a task or it doesn't serve a deep enough purpose.
I definitely think that my wobble earlier on this week was caused by not having clarity. I didn't have clarity of all the tasks whizzing around in my mind at once, they were making me feel overwhelmed. I wasn't clear on which step I should start with, whether there were steps I was forgetting about. By writing them all down in a list, in the list in the process plan, by having all of those steps it gave me far more clarity about what I needed to do and in what order so instead of sitting there feeling panicked I was able to start cracking on with it.
The second reason I think the simple process plan format is helpful is because it's a checklist for you to use. And there are loads of studies and examples that show how powerful checklists are at helping us to be consistent, to avoid mistakes, and to maintain quality. I can't remember where I first read this fact.
It would have been in a productivity book. It might have been in How to Be a Productivity Ninja, but it might have been in Atomic Habits, I just can't remember. But wherever it was I heard about it, I've looked it up again, ready for today's episode, and I thought I'd tell you about the story behind it. So after the new B 17 bomber was introduced during World War II, it was actually crashed during its demonstration flight.
Even though it was being flown by a really experienced star pilot. After that happened, the US Army Air Corps introduced a safety checklist that pilots and crews had to use in the cockpit before they flew a plane. And they found that the risk of fatal errors plummeted. And when everyone saw that happen, checklists became compulsory throughout the world for all flights.
research for this episode, in:
So essentially, they have to work their way through a fairly simple, but comprehensive, three part checklist. All of the studies and the evaluations since that was launched have shown that the checklist has reduced the rate of deaths and surgical complications by as much as one third in the places where it's used.
I mean, that's an incredible thing to think. We may not be piloting a plane or performing surgery, but there's no reason we can't use this power of checklists in our own work to keep it as high quality as possible. Ultimately, we're all human and there's only so much we can remember without having prompts to remind us.
The third reason I think it's so helpful is because, like in the example of Katie that I shared with you earlier, it really helps you to make delegation and training much easier. So you can hand over parts of the process, you can feel confident the person is going to fulfil that process or project really well, and you can even hand over potentially all of the process if you need to.
Then the fourth and final reason I wanted to share with you today that the simple process plan template can be useful is because by writing down an existing process you start to see opportunities to improve it. Whether that might mean automating parts of it or combining parts or leaving parts out. I remember seeing this in the recruitment process when I last worked in HR.
When we wrote down all of the steps that were happening when we were onboarding a new person into the business, we realized that this poor person was being emailed on multiple occasions, but kept being asked to provide the same information multiple times in different formats. So, things like their address.
We realised that if we just combined all of these questions into one form and sent them one email, It cut down a huge amount of our admin time at our end and it also made the onboarding experience a lot less frustrating to anyone new who was joining the organization.
That brings us to the end of today's episode.
I really hope it's been helpful for you to hear about the simple process plan template I use and all the reasons I think that it is really effective. I'd love to hear if you decide to put the idea into action, or perhaps you have got a different tool or template that you use that you think is really, really helpful.
If you have, I always love hearing about new tools and testing them out myself as well, so, feel free to get in touch, you can always reach me on LinkedIn. I'm there as myself, as Fay Wallis, which is Fay without an E on the end, and Wallis is spelt with an I S on the end instead of an A C E. And if you've been listening to HR Coffee Time for a while and enjoying it, please can I ask you for a favour?
If you're happy to rate and review the podcast for me on Spotify or Apple Podcasts, that would be amazing. It makes such a difference in encouraging the podcast platforms to recommend the show to people who haven't come across it before. I know it's not necessarily very intuitive how you actually write a review on Apple Podcasts, so I have popped a video in the show notes for you that shows you exactly how to do it in case you're thinking Fay, I keep trying to review it for you, but I've no idea how.
This app is just so confusing. So I hope that's useful if you decide to take a look at the video. Thank you so much. I hugely appreciate all of your support. Have a fabulous week, and I'm looking forward to being back again next Friday with the next episode for you.