Mar 26, 2007

Time for new HR structures and processes

Have you ever wondered how funny the structure of most HR groups is?

There are two distinct groups, the specialists and the generalists, and the unwritten assumptions are that if you are the cerebral kind you'll become a specialist and if you are the "dirty-your-hands" kinds you'll become a generalist.

The specialists design the processes and interventions, while the generalists implement them, and their options of customising the same are very limited. In fact the focus of large firms which are geographically dispersed is to minimise the variations in implementation.

The big issue in this kind of HR structures is that their is an implicit assumption that the 'specialists' are the 'thinkers and designers' and the 'generalists' are the 'doers'. When the structures become rigid, they overlook the simple fact that most HR professionals can contribute to making various designs robust. Silos are reinforced and "this is my job" and "that's not your job" mentality takes over.

How can HR functions and professionals guard against this?

Issues of turf and power and authority are set by the HR leaders of the organization. When the various functional heads of HR are insecure and not confident of their expertise they would set examples of such behavior that's emulated by their team members.

The example has to be set by the HR head of the organization to make his/her first line drop their defenses and work as a true team. That means not just critiquing but also collaborating and contributing.

A career ladder for HR professionals that zig and zag through the various functions would also go a long way in sensiting them that there are no "more important" and "less important" functions within HR. In fact there should be two or three mandatory stints for HR professionals out of HR too, in functions that are client facing (like marketing and sales), vendor facing (like procurement and supply chain) and operations.

A new structure

Structurally HR people can work on processes than functions. Making each employee experience a process, HR teams can work on maximising the employee experience and engagement. In fact I had heard of a IT company that organized the HR teams according to their purpose. However, I am not sure how successful as to how it actually played out.

What are your thoughts?