In order to make a greater contribution to business, human resource departments need to focus more on speeding up improvements in the operations of business, and less on its usual administrative and compliance duties.
That’s the message of Brad Power, a business consultant. To speed up process improvement, human resources can do several things, Power says.
One is to hire people in HR who have a lot of experience in bettering the operations of businesses. These are people who have the know-how to work with managers on the line and talk to them about making operational changes, Power says. They have the knowledge and the credibility to confront managers over whether they are improving the skills of their employees when they redesign jobs.
As an example of this, Power cites the work of Tony Scibelli, a human resources manager at a medical center. Scibelli brought in a director of organizational development, creating a new position at the medical center to do it. This person directs the training and education programs at the healthcare complex, as well as working on problem-solving skills, team building and worker engagement.
Lowe’s did the same thing when it hired someone with a management background to lead its process improvement program from human resources.
Another thing HR departments can do to focus their energy on process improvement is to whittle down and, if possible, even outsource the traditional administrative activities. Functions such as payroll and benefits should be run efficiently and reliably at the lowest cost possible. They need to be simplified, standardized and automated as much as possible, so that HR can focus more on the operational aspects.
Also, within human resources, a group should be formed that focuses specifically and exclusively on operational improvement, Power says. The group’s sole objective should be to speed up operational change using new strategies and developing people to play new roles. This group should act as a change agent within the organization.
Naturally, Power says, HR cannot ignore its traditional administrative functions, and it won’t get very far at organizational improvement and change if it doesn’t take care of these activities. But at the same time, human resources needs to be more proactive and get out from under its traditional functions. It may involve taking some risks, but if human resources departments don’t take the risk, they will be missing great opportunities to help add real value to their companies.
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