This week finds me, my husband and my dog frantically packing up to move house from Southern California to the San Francisco Bay Area, marking the end of one professional chapter and getting ready to start another. I have changed jobs before, and I changed career directions about five years ago when I went from an internal HR practitioner role and entered the consulting world, working with HR departments to transform and improve talent management, HR service delivery and HR technologies provided to organizations.
For this next chapter, I will continue as an external consultant providing talent management, change and organization effectiveness services, but not to HR. Instead, the clients are lines of business and non-HR business functions. This is not a novel concept; large consultancies have been delivering organization effectiveness, change management, leadership development and talent optimization services directly to non-HR business units for years, sometimes collaborating with internal HR practitioners and sometimes not. As a former internal HR practitioner and a consultant focused on increasing the effectiveness and presence of the HR function, however, this move feels a little awkward, and very, very exciting.
A recent blog by Ed Lawler for the Conference Board calls for a HR reset. In his post, Dr. Lawler reflects on the past 15 years of research conducted by the Center for Effective Organizations has found that, more often than not, “HR executives were good at identifying what not to do, but were poor at identifying what should be done to make the company more profitable.” He goes on to comment that “it is possible to identify some key HR functions and capabilities that corporations need to have in order to be effective. All of these are capabilities that HR functions can develop, but they often require a major change in how HR operates. “
As I embark on consulting on organization and talent development initiatives designed specifically for, and delivered directly into, business units, I expect to work with leaders who truly understand the impact that transformational (heck, just solid) organization and talent development can have on business results. What I hope to understand better is why, in many organizations, these same business leaders turn to external consultants, rather than their internal HR departments, to help them realize these impacts.
Back to Dr. Lawler’s post. He writes that there are two major changes that HR could make it how it operates, and that these changes could enable HR to deliver greater strategic and bottom line impact to the business. The first is for HR to increase the level of business acumen within the function, both by recruiting and developing for that acumen AND paying higher salaries to HR leaders, comparable to other staff function, e.g., finance, IT, marketing leaders. The second is for HR to significantly restructure its organization: “HR should be divided into two groups: one that handles administrative and support services, while a second group handles strategic talent management, organization design, and sustainable organization effectiveness. The second should be headed by a chief organizational effectiveness officer, who reports directly to the CEO.”
For those who are internal HR executives, leaders and practitioners, what are your thoughts about Dr. Lawler’s suggestions? Would paying HR practitioners higher salaries and/ or rethinking the organization structure of the HR function enable HR to deliver greater business impact? One of the things I wonder about is whether a centralized HR function – or a split function (HR administration and organization effectiveness) makes sense, or whether it makes more sense to decentralize HR so that business units can obtain the talent and organization development services they need, when they need them. I have seen this model many a time in the past five years, and, much to the frustration of centralized centers of excellence / corporate HR, I wonder if business leaders don’t prefer this model.
Whatever the case is in each organization I will have the opportunity to work with, I am looking forward to raising my talent and organization development game. Any advice and words of wisdom from the FOT nation are very welcome.