HR is the function both senior management and employees love to hate. Since its inception the function has struggled to define its mandate and transform its role from secretarial to a necessary member of the organizational management team.
We’ve all heard the obstacles which prevent HR being as integrated in to the business as it should, or could be:
1. Many employees’ interactions with HR are administrative, leaving the impression that that’s all there is; it’s then an uphill fight to be recognised for more valuable activities and input
2. It can be difficult for HR to show return on investment and it is often seen as a cost and not as a positive contributor to the organisation’s bottom line
3. Many in business, in particular those in senior positions, view HR as “common sense” and therefore don’t see the value add
4. People managers are often unclear about the role of HR, with many using the pretext - “that’s a line management responsibility”, and therefore questioning what HR actually does
These are obviously more pointed in some businesses than others.
In order to deal with these issues and to get “a seat at the table”, many in HR have leaned heavily on adopting a functional structure to help break down and pinpoint how its practices contribute to the organisation. With the adoption of “practices” and “initiatives” as the main method of impacting the organisation, it could be argued that HR has traded off its understanding of the big picture and has become over invested in functional activity that often fall out of kilter with business objectives, pushing it even further away from the management partner it so eagerly yearns to be.
However, all is not lost, and HR’s contribution to the “big picture” can be acquired, or reacquired, if it looks differently at Organisational Effectiveness (OE). This change in focus would alter the landscape for HR; it’s about ensuring that OE becomes the definitive scope and strategic driver for HR.
In order to do this a definition and model of OE need to be devised; a model which identifies what the components and variables of OE are, and then maps these to the desired business objectives. Throughout this exercise it’s fundamental to remember that any plans need to be contextualised according to business strategy (or else what difference is it from the assumed best practice approaches that suggest a one-size-fits-all solution to organisational HR?)
In our recent study, a compelling case is presented as to why Organisational Effectiveness is the only way in which HR can speed up the process in which it is reshaped, realign it with the business as a whole, and empower it to claim a piece of the pie that only HR is competent enough to manage. The study does this by first identifying a framework of OE, consisting of three interacting elements that produce a contingency model, it then uses this framework to present four core competencies that HR needs to develop away from the traditional functional model and obsession with “practices” and “initiatives”. The study argues that through mastering these competencies in relation to OE can an HR department establish its rightful place as a managerial and organisational partner.
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