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Stressed Out HR

A funny thing happens when you get busy. You get stressed. Now, some people handle stress better than others, but to some degree stress affects a change on everyone. You begin to lose focus on the unimportant things or, at least, the not immediately important things. This is hardwired in all of us, and it can be really useful for, say, a race car driver or a mountain climber. Those guys and gals need to be focused on the extreme activities in front of them and not much else.

But what about your average Joe or Jane in the Human Resources Department? How does stress and this narrowing of focus impact them?

Human Resources Cutting Corners

Recruiting for talent is stressful, especially in today’s job market. To succeed in finding and hiring the best for your organization, you have to raise awareness and garner excitement around your open position first. This means you must write a compelling job description that attracts top talent and hopefully references an awesome work culture. You also need to cast your nets wide by posting jobs on social media, utilizing niche job boards, and leveraging the power of job aggregators. Then you have to review and organize applications and communicate with hiring managers and applicants. This might be manageable with one or two open positions, but what if you’re hiring for several jobs? And what if you’re an HR Department of One? Hello stress!

Stress begins to seep into your workflow the moment work volume exceeds your work capacity. This is precisely when “immediately unimportant” items or tasks get dropped.

Now, some might say that high work volume is “a good problem to have” and “job security,” and that “desperate times” (high work volume), “call for desperate measures” (cutting corners/dropping items). But this mentality and approach can sabotage an organization’s talent management efforts because it masquerades as a solution, while not addressing an inconvenient truth: a well-planned, efficient hiring process does not contain any unimportant items or tasks–everything is important.

But say your organization doesn’t have a well-planned, efficient hiring process. Suppose it, instead, places its faith in an HR professional with a keen sense of what’s important and timely for an effective, high-quality hiring process. Well, stress has a funny way of dulling the senses, and when an organization relies on the “keen senses” of HR to reach its talent goals, it’s setting itself up for failure. Because while cutting corners may be a byproduct of high work volume at first, eventually those cut corners will become an established part of the process.

Unintended Behavior Modification

Ever seen a dog exploring the boundaries of a newly installed electric fence? You know, those invisible ones. I haven’t (because I find a real fence to be kinder), but from what I hear, the dog will approach the boundary and receive a shock. Eventually, after getting zapped enough times, the dog learns not to approach the boundary for fear of being shocked.

When our HR professional drops items or tasks in the face of “too much volume, not enough capacity,” he is modifying his behavior to overcome stress just like the dog. Overtime, the HR professional will learn to drop items and tasks before he reaches capacity, so as to avoid the stress. This leads to a drop in recruiting/hiring quality because the dropped items are often things like:

  • Posting jobs to social media with frequency (“But, one tweet is enough, right?”)
  • Writing a remarkable job description (“But, all the vital information is there…they get the idea.”)
  • Consistent, timely, and appropriate follow up with applicants (“But, it’s not immediately important.”)
  • Projecting a friendly and welcoming demeanor to job applicants (“But, I’m too stressed to be kind!”)
  • Proactively communicating with colleagues to keep everyone on the same page ( “Sorry, I meant to tell you sooner. I just have a lot on my plate.”)

Taking care of the above distinguishes an organization in the eyes of top talent (the excuses…are just that, excuses). Neglecting the above is not professional, and it hurts the hiring process. So does that mean 60-hour work weeks for our HR Department of One? No.

Getting Resourceful

If the dog in our story above wants to chase a squirrel beyond its limits and avoid the shock of the electric fence, running into the fence more often is not going to help. The shock (stress) will only increase. But suppose that dog climbed up on the the patio table adjacent to the invisible fence and jumped over it? It avoids the shock and can now have a chance at that squirrel.

Our HR Department of One can likewise chase top talent (purple squirrels even) by being resourceful when faced with stress caused by high work volumes. Rather than viewing work capacity as static and immovable, they can explore ways to increase capacity and enhance quality in hiring. HR technology accomplishes both. By automating many of the time-consuming tasks that are vital to high quality recruiting and hiring processes, HR can be free to focus on the things that distinguish their organizations in the job market.


ExactHire provides hiring and employee onboarding solutions to assist organizations in attracting, hiring, and retaining talent. To learn more about how you can leverage our SaaS solutions to optimize your talent management efforts, contact us today!

Feature Image Credit: stressed by rick (contact)

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