The Complex World of Organisations for HRs, Part II: The HR Function

05.05.20 10:00 AM

There is no doubt that the HR function is undergoing a transformation exactly like that of the company. We are not going to comment here on the evolution of the HR function, which has been entrusted from Personnel Administration to People Management or the turbulence that, at the environment level, companies have suffered in the last decades. The HR function has evolved with the company. Where there has been no evolution, there is no longer anything, neither an HR function nor a company. There is a fairly natural selection in the world of organizations. If your HR Management is limited to hiring, firing, and payroll, you have a lot of work to do. The question is: what is the role that HR has played in the transformation process of your company? Have you been in the small platoon, setting the pace of promotion or have you been part of the great platoon that gives the direction of its leaders?





The HR function is still equated with administration, downsizing and restructuring. These are basic functions that must continue to be paid attention to. Let's see what the function can be if we work with perspective and intelligence. Selection, salary policies or training plans are functions that will continue to be carried out. Whatever we design, we must give support to the day to day. We are analyzing the function. Not who does it. We will share responsibilities later.

One of the open criticisms is that the HR Departments have been far away from the business. Sometimes HR was seen more as a department that put legal downsides to expansion plans that did not adequately manage unions or prevented quick changes in salary policies. It was not a collaborator in growth but a controller of the current legislation.

Many of the Personnel professionals did not understand production, finance or marketing. They were specialists in a single isolated subject and it was difficult for them to have a global idea of ​​the company. The added value contribution was partial. The General Directors did not have the participation of HR in the design of the strategies. They commissioned them or translated the strategies into orders that the company would need in the future. It is difficult to unite people's skills, competencies and practices if the essence of the business is not known.

There is a need to have a clear commitment with the General Management: to add value to the income statement. To be able to demonstrate profitability, as the Production, Sales or Finance Departments do. Work closely linked to development plans, providing information for management, providing solutions within the objectives of the company and supporting the strategies of the company, and all done quickly, one of the values ​​of the company today. All practices should be analyzed and linked to strategies and objectives. If we are not able to find the link, we will have to consider modifying these practices.

The Human Resources Department has, in a good part of its functions, a staff operation. All the HR subsystems are designed and powered by the HR Department. We refer to the systems, processes and tools that facilitate the people management in the organization.


We can divide them into two groups:


Internal: Those prepared and managed by HR.

External: Those used by the management line (executives and middle managers) to manage their human resources. They are made by HR promoting their use, and supervising the results and their correct application, but it is the management that uses them.


The next Figure 2 shows a model of an integrated system of tools for HR management. As you can guess, there are a series of practices and tools that do not belong to the HR Department but to the management line. In many companies, there is work pending to return what is on the line to the line. Interestingly, in many companies, managers do not even want to hear about this issue. There is a logical explanation and that is that, historically, it was the work of those of "Personal" and, now, they live it as an overload. Is directing people a burden on the controls? We have to ask ourselves what the resistance to change means, since they are usually loaded with content and reasons.


Figure 2


As we already know, part of HR's work is not executive but consists of supporting its internal clients. To do this, we need the internal clients to be involved in the process, approving personnel strategies as a first condition for them to make them their own and decide when to put them into practice. Then we can give instruments to execute the strategies.





Wayne Anderson describes in his article "The future of Human Resources: constantly advancing or falling behind" his impression of the evolution of the function.

Figure 3 shows the trend in the functions that are developed today and in the future. The basic condition is that everything that is done by HR is to support the objectives and strategies of the organization.


Percentage of time used



Strategic HR Planning



Advisory / Development



Execution and administration oriented



Figure 3





Strategic planning is understood as the definition of the action lines, their link with the company's plans, as well as the development plans to cover the company's needs in terms of personnel. It is a task that tends to increase. Not so the orientation to the execution and administration, for which a drastic reduction is foreseen, either by the automation or by the outsourcing of said functions.


The greatest increase will be the advisory and development: serve as a benchmark for the evolution of internal HR clients; bring the experience, the skills, the vision and, above all, help them help each other, asking pertinent questions that start the search for solutions. Helping, in a word, to make them more autonomous.

Marie-Noëlle Guillot dives in the topic when she asks 145 companies with 300,000 employees, about the company's expectations regarding the HR function and the HR management projects. The answers could not be more significant: more than 50% cite the following five actions:

- Mobilize staff based on the company's strategic objectives.


- Preserve social peace and cohesion within the company.

- Develop skills.

- Develop the quality of management.

- Prepare staff for future activities and jobs.


Although the priority of the function is to mobilize personnel based on the objectives of the company, it differentiates between small, medium and large companies. In the smallest, emphasis is placed on "involving the entire staff in the company's values", while the largest speak of "accompanying the behavior of change".





Another interesting section is the one that refers to the number of employees employed by companies in the HR Department. The average is between 1.8% of the workforce, reaching 2.4% in companies with more than 5,000 people. The time spent by those responsible for their HR responsibilities is not reflected in this percentage. In the study, they put 13% of the time that middle managers spend on personnel management actions. As for the functions requiring the most time and efforts: payroll and personnel administration - 43%, and training and recruitment - 32%.





To finish, this photograph of European companies whose HR projects in 75% are:

- Annual training plan.

- Definitions of the functions for the management positions.

- Information disseminated at meetings with work councils.

- System of annual appreciation meetings for managers.

- Simulations of salary budget.

- Monthly HR management guide book.

- Definitions of functions for non-management positions.

- Salary matrix.


The range of applications and tools is wide. We have already observed that there are many paths that ultimately lead to the same site. What is important is the process that must position the Human Resources Department as one more management, adding value to the income statement.





The article by Clifford J. Ehrlich where he reflects on the principles of creating value in HR management is based on six principles:

·  The HR strategy must be linked to the business strategy.

·  HR management does not consist of programs, but relationships.

·  The Human Resources Department must be recognized as an element that anticipates change and understands that it is necessary to carry it out.

·  HR staff should be a clear advocate for the interests of employees, although they must understand that business decisions have to balance a range of factors that are often at odds with each other.

·  The effectiveness of human resources increases if issues and not individuals are kept as a topic for discussion.

·  HR executives must accept that continuous learning and skills improvement are essential to contribute to the company.


Although the dimension of these principles is grasped, we must examine the second, which puts relations before programs. It was Kurt Lewin, who, in the 1950s, wrote down a kind of psychological formula:


Behavior = f (Personality + Specific Environment)


It means that the personality of the subject and the specific environment in which he/she is found intervene in the behavior. From there we deduce that, if we want to modify someone's behavior, we have two options:

·  Change personality, something quite difficult, as well as unethical.

·  Modify the environment, which is much more possible.


The case of the "burned-out" professionals, with a strong demotivation level, who have changed departments and suddenly changing and looking like completely new people is known to all. Well, they are not other people, they are themselves in another environment. When organizations produce change, they create different environments that may or may not be favorable to the objectives pursued.





The HR Director is responsible for creating environments that facilitate people's commitment to the business project.


"Forms of union" must be developed, says Ehrlich. We can build on work teams and put in place meticulous analytics that give employees a meaningful voice right that influences decisions that directly affect them. This means engaging employees with the change process and giving them the right to speak to define their future, since people support what they have contributed to doing. We can find some clues to guide us in the new HR function. This is intended to create opportunities for employees to develop, taking responsibility for their own learning.


Change management is one of the assets with which the HR builds its own identity. In the different change management responsibilities, you should not adopt the ownership, since that function usually corresponds to the General Manager, who from his authority validates the defined change. HR provides the tools to change agents, who are the ones to implement it. Working with managers to help them determine what changes are needed, how they can be put in place, and to help them understand resistances to change are HR contributions.


As can be seen, the task of the HR Director covers a wide field of action. From establishing the company's HR strategies, policies and procedures in order to achieve its professionalism, adaptation and motivation with the company's values, development and objectives, to becoming an active change agent.





The profile of the HR management in Europe currently is:


The majority are men, with an average age of 40 years, a university degree (95%) and a specialty in Law, Economics and Psychology.


There are plenty of specialization seminars in internal HR, but not so many in Consulting.


(To be continued)