Five Essential Best Practices for HR
Here are five essential practices to help ensure that HR is truly facilitating the implementation of an organization's goals and business model.
By Reed Deshler
Every organization needs support functions such as Human Resources to achieve smooth implementation of business models and strategy. However, HR can just as effectively disable a strategy as enable it. This is not to imply malice on the part of HR leaders or those who work in HR. Rather, it is to point out their considerable power to influence. To leverage that power successfully, one must be mindful of how the support body is structured and led, as well as the mindset of individual professionals as they fulfill their daily work and decision-making functions.
Keeping these five essential practices top of mind will help ensure that HR is truly facilitating the implementation of an organization's goals and business model rather than interfering with it:
Ensure the structure of HR links to the business hierarchy. The sole function of the HR department is to support the company in achieving its goals and delivering value to its customers and stakeholders. However, it sometimes happens that the department begins to prioritize its own goals ahead of those of the organization as a whole. To avoid this phenomenon, be sure your HR function is designed and managed to be sensitive and responsive to the greater needs of the company and to make the organization's business model a priority. One HR executive decided she would move the business-facing members of HR to report hard line to the business (not to HR) so that she could convince the business to let her pull disparate HR resources embedded in regions into HR's global centers of expertise. By allowing HR's business-facing team members to report directly into the business, this HR executive ensured that HR was linked to the business hierarchy while gaining the credibility to pool together the rest of the organizations HR team members into focused, global teams.
Design for efficiency and ease. Analyze your HR department's work flow and how it delivers value to its customers. It's very common for HR delivery models to be organized around the specialized work of the HR department itself, often as siloed sub-functions such as employee relations, talent management, total rewards, etc. However, the resulting delivery models can create obstacles for its customers, with the result that multiple HR professionals or groups can end up working at odds with each other in an attempt to assist business leaders. Consider how HR services can be delivered through integrated value streams that keep redundancies and hand-offs to a minimum. It can also help to apply lean principles to minimize waste and free up resources better used to support the strategic work of the organization.
Prioritize business strategy over HR strategy. While it is necessary for the HR department to engage in internal planning, care must be taken to avoid focusing the HR strategy solely on HR itself. Prioritizing the greater organization and focusing on what truly delivers value ensures that the HR function stays in alignment with the goals of the organization, rather than diverting value to HR function at the expense of business strategy.
Deliver value. HR professionals need to remain aware of what constitutes business-critical work, and be ready and willing to roll up their sleeves and pitch in alongside their clients to get it done. This may require the HR professional to move out of their comfort zone by saying "no" to perceived priorities or responsibilities -- for instance, skipping or rescheduling a routine staff meeting to help with a critical strategic issue, or resisting the urge to pass work off elsewhere if it is something that urgently affects business strategy and can be accomplished with a hands-on effort. While all HR professionals would like to believe they bring value to the table, their willingness to be fully present and engaged is what can make the biggest difference to business leaders pressed to deliver results for the company.
Coordinate delivery. HR may have multiple sub-functions, and/or employ external partners for certain services. To ensure that internal clients receive seamless delivery of services, it is imperative to set up linkages between functions. Each much operate in concert with all the others. This means adequate training and intelligent coordination between the designer group and the implementer group of any program that HR designs and/or employs.
Always allot time to analyze your HR function in terms of value. Specifically, are you truly supporting and enabling the business model and strategy of the organization? Or are your functional priorities, teams and sub-functions disconnected and inwardly-focused? Staying focused on the impact of your efforts to the entire business ensures that your HR function realizes its full power and potential.
Reed Deshler is an author and organization design and change leader at AlignOrg Solutions in Lousiville, Ky. Send questions about this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.