HR: Process implementers or strategic contributors?

By liamarus, 17 July, 2013

by Nadira Mahomed

The role of HR has grown and changed to add more value to the organisation, particularly organisational strategy. But does your HR promote your strategy and contribute to the bottom line or does your HR department simply implement processes?

As we all know, the HR generalist deals directly with employees and this individual will be the employees’ first point of contact for personnel matters. However, HR generalists are increasingly required to contribute to, and promote, an organisation’s strategy and not merely act as process implementers. But are HR generalists equipped and trained to meet this requirement effectively? Does the role of the HR generalist simply involve HR implementing or ensuring that new processes and procedures are implemented?

Take culture change as an example.


In keeping with current trends, Company A is changing to a high-performing organisation (HPO). As part of this change, line managers are taken through workshops and other necessary training. The HR generalists are required to support the managers in the change, so contributing to the strategy.

Regional managers then meet with their teams to explain and promote the new strategy and changes. Although the manager tries to motivate his team, he also advises them to ensure that they follow up on duties.

 In this process-driven organisation, where if you deviate from procedure you are penalised, a more empowered, risk-taking culture that is being promoted by HPO is in direct contrast to the current culture.  Can, and do, HR generalists identify the communication/behaviour on the part of managers who promote the punitive culture?

Behaviour can’t change 180˚ overnight

Such organisational change requires employees to change their behaviour. As the large majority of HR generalists hold HR diplomas or degrees, it could be argued that they are therefore not sufficiently equipped to deal with behavioural changes.

In addition, HR practitioners are themselves part of the culture and may therefore not easily identify the behaviours that need to be changed. Both line managers and HR generalists are often told what changes are taking place but are rarely told how to make it happen or given the skills to actively support the employees through the change.

Process, policies and procedures support strategic change…

… but changing behaviour and attitude is what makes change happen

 In example above, if the support that HR provides ensures that managers implement, or assists managers to implement, the new processes or policies linked to the strategy change, their role is “process implementer”.

If the support that HR provides assist the manager to identify the behaviours that deflect from, and promote, the new strategy and culture, they actively promote and contribute to the strategy. 

HR’s input beyond being a process implementer doesn’t need to be limited to major change or strategic initiatives:

  • HR generalists are constantly engaged in various processes and procedures within the organisation. Very often, because of the sheer volume of employees, their jobs can become tick-box exercises: HR generalists simply ensure that the discussion did in fact take place but do little to ensure the quality of such discussions.

  • The process and procedures that are put in place are meant to support the career discussion process but the quality of the discussion and the value that it adds to the employee in managing his or her career impacts how effective this process is.

3 Things organisations can do to help overcome challenges that HR faces

1.    Support your HR department by providing behavioural training, in conjunction with change workshops, to include elements such as:

  • How employees may feel and react to the change,
  • The types of communication and behaviours that reflect the current organisational culture,
  • The communication and behaviour that reflects the new culture, and
  • How to assist managers to identify and change subtle counterproductive behaviours.

2.    Support your HR department by making the link between the processes, procedures and the strategy clear.

HR should be aware of what the processes and procedures are, how these support the systems they are aligned to and how they contribute to the strategy.

3.    Review performance management systems for HR.

Goals and performance agreements that focus on completion and implementation of procedures only promote the tick box way of working. If implementing processes and procedures is what you communicate and your people expect, your HR department will become process implementers

This article first appeared on HR Pulse.



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