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The Mystery of Low effort, High Impact HRs

12 min read

The famous author, Jacob Morgan, once said, “what was viewed by many as one of the least exciting areas of an organization is now one of the most dynamic places to work.” 

And yes, you guessed it right, we are talking about human resource management and people who drive these functions, “HRs”! 

 The function of HR is integral to the success of your company, whether you are a budding start-up or a multinational corporation. When you determine you have a position open, regardless of how many employees you have—one or tens of thousands—HR obligations become relevant. However, HR encompasses much more than merely filling positions. 

 It has been proven time and time again that firms tend to increase productivity and efficiency by integrating HRs in strategic business management. Many businesses have initiated consulting HRs in business processes due to several benefits it offers, and the results are, amusingly, exciting. 

 A single person could not manage all of the administrative responsibilities for everyone in the company due to the rise in the number of businesses and their employees. The burden HRs carry on their shoulders is huge and sometimes becomes the sole reason for all the confusion and hindrance to process seamlessly.  

 The one tool that comes to the rescue is the Effort/Impact matrix approach. Sounds intriguing? Let’s dig in without any further ado! 

Effort/Impact matrix deep dive  

 A visual framework for prioritization, the 2×2 matrix aids professionals in choosing which tasks to work on. This methodology uses a matrix with four quadrants to assess how urgent the current project is. In addition, it also compares a project’s impact to the quantity of work needed to complete it. 

 An impact effort matrix is typically developed through collaborative brainstorming. By doing this, you can determine how many jobs and projects each team member has in total. The significance and urgency of those tasks can then be determined. 

 With the help of this exercise, you will be able to determine the sequence in which the various tasks can be accomplished that have great impact with the least amount of effort. 

 You should typically concentrate on the jobs that require the least effort and have the highest impact. But that doesn’t mean the low-effort and low-impact tasks are pointless. Even those can offer assistance occasionally in one way or the other. 

 Now that we know the fundamentals, let’s examine the tool’s precise nature and how teams utilize it to set priorities. 

 The Impact Effort or 2×2 matrix is depicted in the graphic below. As you can see, it is a matrix with “Effort” on the X-axis and “Impact” on the vertical Y-axis (horizontal). 

 The matrix is divided into 4 quadrants, which are frequently referred to as “4 squares.” The squares in the matrix are classified as High or Low Impact and High or Low Effort depending on their positions. 

 In general, the four squares are as follows, going clockwise from the top left:  

  • Low effort, High impact (Quick Wins) 
  • High effort, High impact (Major Projects) 
  • High effort, Low impact (Thankless Tasks) 
  • Low effort, Low impact (Fill ins) 


These four sections of the Impact Effort matrix are also referred to, in order from 1 to 4, as Quick wins, Major projects, Thankless tasks, and Fill ins. The terms themselves might already have given you an idea, but let’s look at the specifics. 

 Quick Wins 

For the amount of work put into them, these are the pursuits that yield the best results. They are seen as being crucial to the company’s success and of utmost importance. It’s common advise to start with these duties and give them more attention. 

 Major Projects 

Basically, the tasks under this quadrant of Effort/Impact matrix tend to be giving more valuable and long-term results. On contrary to Quick wins, these activities usually take more amount of time and are known to be high impact in nature. Sometimes in the process, the team may end up losing out on quick wins while they are focusing on the major projects.  

 Thankless Tasks 

As the name implies, these tasks are quite time-consuming in nature. The amount of time and resources spent to perform these tasks can be better utilized on the other tasks. It is advisable to stay away from these since they may prevent the team from working on other crucial duties. 

 Fill Ins 

The Fill ins are the final category of the Impact Effort Matrix, which includes low effort and low impact jobs. The majority of these are routine, unimportant jobs. Teams only engage in these if they have additional time and nothing else on which they should concentrate immediately. 

Using an Effort/Impact matrix for a group of Senior Leaders in the organization: 

 Let’s consider an example where the management team is mapping projects among the senior leadership team. Dive in to see what happens next: 

 A group of senior leaders in an organization has been the focus of the work. The project mapping portion of the exercise began with each manager separately mapping out all the work they were attempting to focus on. 

  To figure out what the heck was going on in their world and map it all out, they all spent a solid 45 minutes with their heads down, just writing things out and attempting to organize their projects and assignments onto cards. There were countless numbers of projects, tasks, and activities. 

  It became clear that they hardly understood their own environment, let alone what their what colleagues were up to. It was all just too much, so we started looking at how they could reduce their burden and organize everything. 

 Although some of the chores could be delegated to others, the organization lacked the resources to assign all of it. They had to begin selecting between several activities and projects. 

The Effort Impact matrix was then brought into picture. 

 Individually performing the Effort Impact matrix was the first step, but when we rotated around the room and began conversing with one another, two things transpired: 

  • Everyone was more mindful of what someone else was doing. 
  • Due to the lack of a communication tool, they found connections and synergies as well as context that was absent. Because of how vast their universe was and how busy they were managing down, they had little time for horizontal dialogues. 

Through this process, they were able to have horizontal conversations, and it turned out that, for instance, one had knowledge that another needed, one had workers on the same project as another, and a few had discussions about how they were unaware that others were carrying out a specific task and whether they should actually be doing it at all. 

When their peers agreed with them, this procedure also made it simpler for them to decide what they could stop doing.     

With the help of this activity, they were able to reduce their workloads, clarify where they should be focusing their attention, and bring the group closer together. 

They had certain presumptions, but this method and the discussions that surrounded it greatly clarified things and aided their ability to prioritize as a group. 

Focusing on “Quick-wins”: 

Despite the advancements and changes that have taken place in the HR industry over the past ten years, according to a recent survey, 80% of participants felt that their company’s HR capabilities are missing. It would appear that the fact that businesses are often cautious of change is a major contributing factor. 

And HR directors, for instance, can be reluctant to adopt new HR technologies because of a simple concern that they’ll eventually lose control over the basic HR operations. 

For HRs the Effort/Impact matrix plays a vital role in the transformation journey. This will not only help them identify their priorities but also ensure that they do not lose track of their fundamental functions.  

However, to focus on becoming a strategic HR business partner, they mainly need to work on the quick wins that consume less effort and generate a greater impact. The matrix not only identifies the tasks that need to be prioritized, but it also explains why they should be actually using it. 

However, the HRs have to wear multiple hats to cater to the organizational and employee needs. Two such hats that they have been donning often are transactional HR and people-centric HR.  

As the name suggests, transactional HRs focus more on transactional functions such as onboarding new employees, employee grievance management, employee exits, policies and so on. This in turn, gives them less time to focus on people, culture and strategy which has proven to not benefit them at any instance.  

This boils to down to fact that the less time HRs spend on the transactional activities, the more they can invest in people-centric strategies generating more impact in the business.  

A high-impact HR should ideally be focusing on people-centric strategies that generate high value not just for themselves but also for the organization as a whole.  

They will be acting as the stewards to drive the right culture, create effective business strategies, while managing other HR and management functions in the organization.  

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    Meet the author


    Content Writer

    Bhagyashree Shreenath is a full-time Content Writer at Keka Technologies. She is very passionate about writing and loves to write about the gaps in organization & human resource management strategies to handle the related concerns. When she isn’t writing, you will find her reading a book, or exploring new places.


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