The Secret to Successful HR Projects

I think the world is broken into two types of people:

1. People who do things the hard way.

2. People who let other people do things the hard way.

I’m going to tell you what kind of person I am, but I actually didn’t write this piece, I shopped it out to someone on for $5.

The Secret Sauce ingredients to great HR Projects aren’t much different!   Too often we let our own pride get in our way to really do great HR work, fast.

Let me explain.  There is almost nothing you can come up with in HR, that someone in a bigger company, with more budget money and resources, hasn’t already designed, launched, given up on, went back through the process of re-launching and made it successful.  Your problem is – you want this to be “your” project.  “You” want to take credit for it.  Stop that! You know what that is? That’s Pride.  I think Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction said it best:


Fast Company recently had an article that explains this concept of “Pattern Thinking” perfectly and gave four crucial steps to taking advantage of the great work others do, for the benefit of your own organization.  From the article:

1. Eliminate “Not Invented Here” Thinking. All organizations have this to some degree or another. “Oh, we can’t do that! That’s what our competitor does!” Well, does it work? Do your customers want it? Go make it your own – with your twist – make it better – but give up trying to make something new that you invented. It takes a ton of time and resources to invent – especially when a new invention isn’t needed to solve your problem.  Which is frequently the case in HR!

2. Act Like You Own the Place. Not in the negative way like, “we’re doing it my way because I own this place.”  Like, “we can afford to go crazy on this project, let’s just put a new spin on what we saw that other great HR shop doing and follow in their footsteps.”  That’s smart – that is what an owner does.

3. Keep your Big goal, Top-0f-Mind.  This is where HR strategy comes into play.  If you know, vividly, where you want to take your HR department, and keep it in front of everyone on your team.  Nothing will stop you from getting there.  Be loud, be proud, be visual.  Don’t try and hide where you want to go – it makes it so much harder to get there.  (Why do we try and keep our projects on the down-low? Oh, that’s that pride thing again…)

4. Seek out knowledge holders and sources.   Let’s say I’m trying to improve my 401K participation, or employee engagement, or heck name an HR project!  Find out who’s done a great job out there doing what you want to do – and reach out to them.  Unless they are a clear direct competitor, most will fall over backwards to tell you everything they did – what worked, what didn’t, how they would do it differently next time, etc.  Our leadership likes to do stuff they know will work – if you can show them it worked somewhere else – all the better!

No one said that designing and launching successful HR projects is easy. It’s not!  It’s hard work, but don’t make it harder than it has to be.  Don’t be a #1, be a #2 – it’s easier and more successful!

FOT Background Check

Tim Sackett
Tim Sackett SPHR, is the ultimate Mama’s Boy!  After 15+ years of successfully leading HR and Talent Acquisition departments for Fortune 500s and smaller technical firms, Tim took over running the contingent staffing firm HRU Technical Resources in Lansing, MI. Serving as the Executive Vice President, Tim runs the company his mother started over 30 years ago, and don’t tell Mom, but he thinks he does a better job at it than she did!  Check out his blog at Because he's got A LOT to say, and FOT just isn't enough for him.


  1. So true! I’m actually really surprised that people don’t first turn to what’s already been done. At my company, the HR business partners will always ask around to find a solution that’s already been implemented. We call it “stealing with pride” 🙂 Also… isn’t this what the internet is for?? Someone, somewhere has already solved your problem… it’s just a matter of doing the research.

    But to your point, I guess I’m able to swallow my pride!

  2. Tim Sackett says:

    Nicole –

    I love “Stealing with pride!” – I might have to steal that!

    You know, I think some within our profession want to “build it themselves” because it helps to justify their value and existence – unfortunately. I guess I measure my value to the organization by how fast I can a job accomplished successfully – not that I produced “original” content.

    Thanks for the comments.

  3. Lorax says:

    Regarding your first few sentences: The poet Robert Frost once wrote the the world is composed of willing people…those willing to work and those willing to let them.

  4. davidburkus says:

    Reminds me of Chip & Dan Heath’s advice in Switch: “Find the Bright Spots.” Figure out where people have already stumbled upon wins and scale them. Great words.

  5. Janet says:

    Great thoughts. Curious – do you think larger companies are better at Pattern Thinking? I can’t imagine approaching a problem without first scanning what little tweaks could have the biggest impact with the least resources. Perhaps my pride left me somewhere in the early 90’s… 😉

  6. Alex Raymond says:

    Tim – Another great post! This reminds me of the conversation from several years ago to make sure that HR had “a seat at the table” – i.e. the executive table. For HR leaders, following the the points above are critical to being business partners that add value to the company.

    And the nice thing is that you really emphasize the extra-enterprise relationships, encouraging HR professionals to network beyond their own companies. (Which can be easier said than done!)

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