The HR 95/5 Rule

This story from the Evil HR Lady reminded me of my time as a line HR manager.

This week, I had an employee come to me and complain about other employees not washing their hands after using the bathroom. They wanted me to put up signs telling people they need to wash their hands before returning to work. Needless to say, I do NOT work at a McDonald’s. My (rhetorical) question is this: does putting up a sign telling people to do something or not do something actually work?? If so, I need to rethink our whole office communication plan. It might save me a whole lot of time and trouble.

I had to deal with a similar problem once. I seem to remember gritting my teeth, briefly fantasising about sending the complainant to a Siberian labour camp, then saying something polite but firm about personal responsibility. 

When I was a proper HR manager, I came up with Rick’s 95/5 Rule. It’s like the 80/20 Rule, only worse.

You spend 95% of your time on 5% of the people.  

The serial grievance-raisers, the pedantic rule-book junkies, the over-promoted managers who can’t handle their staff, the new recruits who want to re-negotiate the firm’s relocation package, the perpetual whingers and the people, like the Evil HR Lady’s employee, who see the company as some kind of surrogate nanny-state.

And it’s amazing how the same names just come up over and over again. The penny dropped for me when I realised that there were hunderds of people in the organisation that I’d never met but a few who I saw more often than my family.

Joking aside, I recently helped an organisation set up an HR service centre with a call logging system. Within weeks, it was clear that certain departments and individuals took up a disproportionate amount of HR time. Perhaps not a 95/5 ratio but a significant figure nonetheless. Now the professional response to this is, of course, to investigate the organisational malaise behind this data and, indeed, that’s what my client did after we had presented the information to the management team.

All the same, though, sometimes you can’t help wondering if some people are just naturally a pain in the arse whatever you try to do for them.

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4 Responses to The HR 95/5 Rule

  1. tbrrob says:

    It’s the same in any ‘client’ based job. I don’t work in HR but have exactly the same problem with clients.

  2. jonathan says:

    Putting a sign up would be the start of a slippery slope…
    Water too hot, water too cold, soap not right, allergic reaction to the water/soap/towel.

    Wasn’t one of the infamous British Leyland disputes of the 70’s over hand washing in works time or private time?

    Bad idea… Let them be off sick with dysentery….

  3. jameshigham says:

    That’s so true – an inordinate amount of time is spent sorting the problems of a small vocal number of individuals. Was the case in my line of work as well.

  4. Jim says:

    “…sometimes you can’t help wondering if some people are just naturally a pain in the arse.”

    Well of course that is the case. The “solution” is to identify them as quickly as possible, and find a way to work around them–assuring them that “it’s being worked on,” etc. Then resign yourself to a few left over that have to be canned. Then realize that a few more will always be cropping-up. The idea is to systematize the process of identification, handling, weeding out, and so on and on. Part of life.

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