Low tech tools for HR professionals

16.07.2020 | Tom Haak

Source: Studio Fee Overbeeke

I am a big fan of cool HR tech. There are also many low- or non tech tools that can be very useful for the HR professional. Some tools out of my 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. Checklist

Checklists are powerful. Al 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. Don’t forget to store your checklists for future use. I have a packing checklist on my phone (you can make nice checklist is Notes) and since I use it, I did not have to buy any new chargers.

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.

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 exercise (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 to people. Make it a habit, 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 you 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 organisation 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 desining surveys (read: 10 tech tools to use for HR profesionals).

7. Headset

Maybe not low-tech bit a noise cancelling headset is very useful on 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 Quitcomfort 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, as they want to do too much. The Impact x Effort matrix can help to bring more focus, as explained in this visual of the HR Trend Institute.

Source: Studio Fee Overbeeke

9. Marker

You need a good pencil (see Pencil) and a marker. Maybe two: a whiteboard marker (they are always gone or out of order) and a black permanent marker that can be used on any surface (bit preferably not a whiteboard). My favourite: 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.

11. Notepad

Next to the notebook a notepad can be handy.My preferred choice are drawing pads for children of HEMA Amsterdam. I use them to draw on while talking. A picture says more than 1000 words, although it is difficult to interpret my drawings when you see them without the words.

12. Pencil

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

13. Post-Its

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

14. Questions

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

15. Smartphone tripod

I always carry my Rollei smartphone tripod traveler. Very useful to make stable photos, and for videoconferencing with your smartphone. The tripos is small enough to put on your desk. Very reasonable priced (last price I saw was EUR 20,-).

16. 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 finalise 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.


On July 11, 2019, the first version of this  article was published on the blog of Digital HR Tech

About the Author

Tom Haak is the founder and director of The HR Trend Institute. Prior to founding the HR Trend Institute in 2014, Tom held senior HR positions in companies as Arcadis, Aon, KPMG and Philips. The HR Trend Institute detects, follows and encourages smart and creative use of trends in the field of people and organizations, and also in adjacent areas.