15 Low-Tech Tools for HR Professionals

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I am a big fan of cool HR tech. There are, however, also many low- or non-tech tools that can be very useful for the HR professional. In this article, I’ll share some of my favorite tools out of my low-tech toolbox.

1. Calculator

The good old calculator belongs in every HR toolbox. Don’t overestimate your calculating capabilities. Use your machine, iPhone or the calculator on your laptop.

2. Checklists

Checklists are powerful. All time management systems start with basic to-do lists. I use Asana, but I also create a daily To-Do list on paper. Make a checklist before you speak with your boss and make a “Your first day in the office” checklist for new employees as part of their onboarding program.

Don’t forget to store your checklists for future use. I have a packing checklist on my phone for my (business) trips (you can make handy checklists in Notes) and since I’ve started to use this, I did not have to buy any new chargers while traveling…

3. Door

If you still have an office, you can use your door in two ways. Open: please come in, I am available. Closed: I am not available, leave me alone. If you don’t have an office: go to Headset (number 7 on this list).

4. Empathic nod

The empathic nod is a vital tool for any HR professional. For some people it comes naturally, for others (like me) it takes a lot of practice (with no guaranteed success…).

5. Feet

“These feet are made for walking”. You can use your feet in several ways.

  • Walk around. Walking around the office, or any other working environment is the ideal way to connect with people. Make a habit out of it, otherwise, people will be suspicious when you suddenly appear at their desk.
  • Walk (or run) away. Running away can be an excellent tactic (for example when you see your boss appearing around the corner on her daily friendly walk around.)
  • Walking meetings. Do your meetings while walking, not sitting at your desk or in a meeting room.

6. Five-point scale

I am a big fan of the 5-point Likert scale. It can be used in all kind of forms you are designing (performance management, selection) or for some quick research (are we really living the values in our organization for example).

An example of a five-point rating scale:

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neither agree nor disagree
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

Use Google Forms or Mentimeter when you are designing surveys (read: 10 tech tools to use for HR profesionals).

7. Headset

Although it’s strictly speaking not low-tech, a noise-canceling headset is very useful in your toolbox. In your open space office or during a long flight you can protect yourself from nearly all disturbing sounds. I use the Bose QuietComfort 35, and I am very happy.

8. Impact x Effort matrix

The Impact x Effort matrix (or Effort x Impact matrix) is a simple and very effective tool. Many HR professionals are overloaded with work, as they want to do too much. The Impact x Effort matrix can help to bring more focus, as explained in the below visual of the HR Trend Institute.

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Effort x Impact matrix

9. Marker

You need a good pencil (see number 12 on this list) and a marker. Maybe two: a whiteboard marker (they are always gone or empty) and a black permanent marker that can be used on any surface (but preferably not a whiteboard). My favorite: The Sharpie.

10. Notebook

Although you can make notes on your phone and tablet, nothing beats a good notebook. Use Moleskine or any other well-designed notebook. I cannot resist buying them, my current supplies will last at least until I am 125 years old.

11. Notepad

Besides a notebook, a notepad can be handy. I use the drawing pads for children from HEMA Amsterdam. I use them to draw on while talking, for example during a meeting. A picture (or image) says more than a 1000 words, although it is difficult to interpret my drawings when you see them without the words…

Tom Haak drawing

12. Pencil

My top pencil is the Papermate Flair (medium black). Luckily, they are still being made, I am always happy if I order a new box on Amazon. Try the Papermate, in combination with the HEMA drawing pad I mentioned above and you’ll know what I am talking about.

13. Post-Its

A well-trained HR professional never forgets his or her Post-its.

14. Questions

The art of asking questions is mastered by many great HR professionals. Even for seasoned professionals, however, some training can be useful, as there is always the danger of moving away from asking questions to preaching the right answers (like: “All managers need to be good coaches” when the question should be “Why?”).

15. Watch

Last but not least: the watch. There is always more to do. One hour for this meeting is not enough. We need more time to finalize the analysis. 15 low-tech tools should be 20 or 25! Use your watch to keep track of time, and call it a day before you are too tired to do something else.

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