In a World of Competing Priorities, Try ‘Less, but Better’

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. Mostly because I’ve been around long enough to realize that you never know what will come up next, and artificial deadlines are not really helpful when making change happen. But I do believe in some healthy paranoia and the need to always be thinking about what you could do better. One book I read over the holidays has me thinking about priorities, and how we set them – an area where I’m always looking to do better.

The book I read was Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. The book had something interesting to tell me about priorities. McKeown writes that “the word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next 500 years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities. Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word we could bend reality. Somehow, we would now be able to have multiple ‘first’ things.”

Another key concept of the book is “less, but better.” Whether in our personal lives, professional lives, or leadership lives, we all struggle with doing more and doing it better. It’s the very definition of success for most of us. Yet this concept often leads us to be frazzled and not do anything as well as we’d like. So maybe we should think about doing less, but better. If we do that, we need to be hyper-focused on the filter for what the “less” is. In our personal lives, it may mean eliminating anything that doesn’t get us closer to improving our health or personal relationships. At work, it may mean eliminating the meetings and activities that don’t lead directly to revenue or customer satisfaction. And for HR, it means ruthlessly focusing the vast portion of our energies on what matters to the business.

In Brandon Hall Group’s recent research on workforce management, we found that organizations with strong integration between their workforce and business planning processes saw a 61% greater increase in revenue year-over-year than those with poor or no integration. They also saw more than twice the improvement in customer satisfaction. If we don’t focus on planning together, how can we hope to have the right filters to understand what the priority is? This is a struggle that every HR leader, and business leader, deals with every day. There are many “must dos,” but when faced with two conflicting options, or a limited amount of time to apply to multiple tasks, there must be a clear, single priority, agreed to by everyone, that guides decisions.

It’s not a New Year’s resolution, but ask yourself, how much better would you feel if you knew that business and HR had come to a clear priority for your organization’s HCM strategy? Of course, it’s not easy – I’d feel a lot better if I were in better shape and lost weight, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy to go to the gym every morning and eat salad. But we can all work at it every day.

Mollie Lombardi, VP and Principal Analyst,
Workforce Management, Brandon Hall Group

Mollie Lombardi

Mollie Lombardi is the Vice President of Workforce Management Practice and Principal Analyst at Brandon Hall Group. Formerly Vice President and Principal Analyst for the Human Capital Management research practice at Aberdeen Group, she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to Brandon Hall Group clients in the workforce management practice area.

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