Ok, you’ve done everything you can think of. You’ve created systems and SOPs for all parts of your business. You put a good solid onboarding training program in place. Maybe you even created a quality control feedback loop. That should be it – right? Well, if that’s so – why do you still have a nagging feeling in your brain that things sometimes get overlooked. That things can slip through the cracks.
I used to feel that way. Don’t ‘get me wrong, if you’ve listened to me for any period of time, you know that I have a fantastic team. They are amazing, as individuals and as a group. But our business also has a lot of moving parts. After all, we’re a Human Resources consulting company – our clients have their own way of doing things, regulations are changing all the time, employees need high touch solutions, there are deadlines, government reporting and on and on.
That’s a lot of plates to keep in the air. So yes, I’ll admit that sometimes I would obsess about keeping it all going, and keeping it all on time.
But then I realized that I needed some way to track everything (and I do mean everything) we were doing. We needed a project management system. Something that could keep all our client information in one place for easy access (because when you have an upset employee on the phone asking when their benefits will be effective – you want to have those dates at your fingertips). I needed something that could house SOPs and how tos. And something that could track our tasks and projects, to be sure everyone was knocking down their lists, and getting one another what they needed.
For us the answer was Asana. You’ve probably heard about Asana, It’s one of the most popular project management systems out there – and with good reason. It’s flexible, can do all the things I mentioned, and has a free forever tier. The free tier gives you unlimited tasks, project, messages, file storage and a host of other perks – and it allows you to collaborate with up to 15 teammates.
Now I’m not an affiliate, so no selling is attached to this podcast. But I do want to tell you how we use a project management system in our company to stay on top of the details.
Oh, and by the way, the other perk? When you get it all on paper – well, the electronic version of paper – it really frees your brain. The dirty little secret if that the brain is great for creativity, but not great for list keeping. We use massive amounts of mental energy and resources trying to keep a running list in our heads. That’s just not efficient. Put it in your project management system, and think about it when it comes due – or when you’ve scheduled to think about it.
“…Talk about visibility. Talk about peace of mind. How would you feel if you could see, in one fell swoop – everything that was going on in your company.“
The setup with Asana goes like this – first there are teams, then projects then tasks then sub tasks. Now, I mentioned that Asana is incredibly flexible, so you can arrange these pieces in a variety of ways. But for us, we lean heavily on projects.
Everyone in the company is on one team. Now I could split that up by division if I wanted, and have the payroll team and the HR Business Partner team and the Media team. But it was easier for us just to have everyone on one team and slice and dice around projects.
Each client is a project, and everyone on the team has full visibility into every item across all clients. That way, if I’m filling in for someone, I can immediately know every workers comp case for a particular client because they will be open tasks in that client project.
It also allows us to share information more efficiently. Each project has a general information section with specific tasks holding vital data for that client. It has the contact info for our primary client contact. Links to their payroll platform, the benefits platform, their transaction forms etc. All right there, and easily copy pasted into an eMail if we are telling an employee how to access something.
The general info section is also where we hold the SOPs for that client. We have standard procedures that the company uses; but each client has their own special quirks, and we generally have to do a bit of customizing for each client company. So each client project will hold those client specific SOPs.
Now, in addition to the client projects, we’ve created some locked projects that everyone doesn’t have access to. For instance, we have a Payroll project that only the payroll team uses. That project is locked, so no one else has access or can see any of it’s tasks.
That brings me to tasks. Inside each project , sits the individual tasks. A task is an action you have to take. Tasks can be assigned to a specific person (which is what I generally recommend) or it may not be assigned to anyone at all. For instance the SOPs are tasks, but they are information, so they aren’t assigned to anyone and don’t have a due date.
As a general rule, tasks should have an accountable party, and a due date. That way they’re assigned and can be tracked.
Now, tasks are a wonderful thing because not only can they hold information, file attachments, hyperlinks and track comments. They also hold a magical thing called sub tasks. Let me explain it this way.
Unfortunately, right now (mid 2022) we are still dealing with illnesses related to the pandemic. And our clients have people calling out all the time. When this happens there are a number of steps we have to take; we have to reach out to the employee, notify them of any special paid leave they have available; get a list of potential close contacts; notify those people; liaison with the manager, follow up with the employee etc.
So, one of your employees just told you that she’s pregnant. Feeling overwhelmed, with no idea where to start? After all, HR just got dumped on your plate. It’s not your zone of genius, and you don’t want it to be.
Managing California Leave is your answer. It’s an easy to understand course, that explains what the various leave programs are – without the HR gobbledy gook. And it gives you a clear step by step guide that walks you through the process of putting someone on leave
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Well, we created a template task – oh, by the way, you can make a task or project a template so you can reuse it at will. Anyway, we’ve created a template task for leave; and each of those steps are sub tasks inside the main task. That way it all stays together as one case, and if someone needs to follow up or find out where things are, we can just look at that task and its subtasks.
So when we’re notified someone is out, we duplicate the template leave task; complete the information, assign sub tasks as needed and go from there. In fact, we can even copy paste important eMails into the comments section – again so everything stays all together. And again – if someone is filling in, they don’t’ have to try to dig through someone’s eMail to find the information they need.
Tasks can have a single due date, or you can set them to recurring. You can view tasks in list, board or calendar view. And if you decide to upgrade to a paid tier, you’ll get timeline view as well.
In addition to the tasks inside the projects – each team member has their own, private, ‘my tasks’ list. So if they create a task for themselves (you know, your personal to do list), it has all the features of regular tasks except that it goes into the ‘my tasks’ list and others can’t see it.
I have to say – yes Asana helps us scoop up all the pieces of our accountabilities so that nothing gets lost, overlooked or falls through the cracks. And yes, it’s an invaluable tool to hold our SOPs and general information.
But honestly, as the leader – it just gives me an incredible amount of peace of mind. My most favorite thing is I can click on the team grouping, select calendar, and see – in a clean calendar format, everything that is due across the whole company.
Talk about visibility. Talk about peace of mind. How would you feel if you could see, in one fell swoop – everything that was going on in your company.
Oh, I don’t want – and don’t need – to do anything about it. That’s what the team is for. But to have it all in one place, nothing sitting out there as an outlier post-it note….let me tell you, it feels like heaven!
And, in fact, if I just wanted to look across one client, I could look at the calendar view for that client and see everything that was going on with them.
Now, there are other features. You can assign tasks to one another, and send comments back and forth (in fact I have heard that some companies strictly use Asana for internal communication and only use eMail when they communicate with someone outside the company). We haven’t made it that far yet, but it’s one of the many flexible options you have with Asana.
I know this has sounded like a commercial for Asana (and yes, I do love and strongly recommend it). But it’s really a commercial to convince you to get a project management system for you and your team. It could be Click Up, or Trello or a dozen others. It doesn’t matter what it is – it just has to be something that resonates with your company’s style, and that your team will use. Because it’s only as good or bad as the information that’s given.
So, the next time you sitting across from your team member asking them what’s new during their 1 on 1 meeting – think of how much more productive that meeting would be if you could just go through an overview of their open tasks together.