Significance and role of Human Resources Department varies in each organization. As the organizations mature, HR practices also mature. Size and age of an organization has no bearing on the maturity of their HR function. Maturity has much to do with the focus of "management on people" which constitutes their biggest asset. The HR function is at three different states in its evolution cycle where it starts as a Business Function, becomes a Business Partner and then a Strategic Partner.

A few years back during a client interaction, while being quizzed on our capabilities, I was surprised by a question on security practices in our company. The reason cited was that the customer measured the maturity of their vendor on the basis of the security practices prevalent in the vendor's premises. After all they wanted to entrust their data with us!

Around 5 years later, we were asked a similar question where another customer evaluated our HR practices at a significant level of detail to gauge our competence.

In subsequent discussions, I have found that the question on HR maturity is being asked frequently by potential customers, investors and even prospective employees. The answers indicate maturity, stability, long term sustainability and delivery capabilities of your organization and hence are very important.

So what is HR function growth?

This post explores my discovery on this topic and should be helpful to both HR professionals and senior management to understand at what stage their HR function is and the steps they need to take to move to the next level.

You may also like to view a small questionnaire that will help you identify the Maturity and Effectiveness of the HR function in your organization.

HR Function Growth Path
As the organizations mature, HR practices also mature. The HR function is at three different states in its evolution cycle where it starts as a Business Function, becomes a Business Partner and then a Strategic Partner. Please refer to the following figure that shows the migration.

In each of these cases the role and impact of the HR department becomes progressively more strategic in nature. At higher levels of maturity, the HR function can add tremendous value to the leadership potential, top-line, bottom line and long-term sustainability of the organization.

At each stage the attributes & value add by the Human Resources function change and the tools required vary significantly.

HR as a Business Function
At the very least, when an HR function is available in an organization, it is responsible for managing employee data, takes care of payroll, time and attendance and the setting of company policies.

The role is largely that of Personnel Administration focused on Compliance both internal & external, and on Management of employee records.

The tools that the HR requires are related to management of employee data and include a rudimentary HRMS, Payroll processing software, Time and Attendance systems (could include time-card readers, swipe systems and associated devices). I have found that in many cases organizations even use spreadsheets and shared directories to manage their employee data, policy documents and employee leave applications, contracts etc. In most cases, paper based employee files are the only source of employee data which are managed by the Personnel Administration department of the organization.
HR as a Business Partner
As a Business Partner, the role of HR is to meet the "existing business needs" of the organization so that the organization could grow at a measurable rate.

At this stage of evolution, the focus of the HR shifts to competency based Recruitment, Total Compensation, Employee Development, Communication and Organization Design.

The HR function helps in formalizing the organization structure (who does what and reports to whom). Once that is complete, the next role is that of identifying the skills necessary for different job roles. HR further helps in defining appropriate training programs that are necessary for developing these skills, recruitment techniques to evaluate the skill levels and benchmarking the skill database against industry standards and competitors.

Total compensation (payroll and benefits) also becomes a focus area where the HR helps the organization attract and retain skilled employees by becoming a leader in compensation management.

Using the skill database and the organization structure, the HR function iteratively evolves compensation practices, improves the training function and makes the recruitment function more attuned to the skills needed by the organization.

To facilitate the above functionality, HR uses tools such as Applicant Tracking software for recruitment, Employee Portal for communication, Self Services for employees empowerment, Learning Management Systems for training & development and an Employee Database for capturing employee skills & competency profiles. Organizations even have well defined Job Descriptions with details of qualifications, experience, special skills required for the job and job roles & deliverables for each job position.

We have found that at this stage most organizations prefer some degree of automation and are using tools either built internally or procured from vendors. Another characteristic of organizations at this level of maturity is the break-up of the HR function into sub-functions such as Training, Personnel Administration, Recruitment and Compensation & Benefits, each being partly dependent on the other.
HR as a Strategic Partner
Organizations that view their HR as a strategic business partner believe in full maturity of their HR function. Such organizations are focused on attaining leadership positions rather than an year-on-year growth. Bottom-line and top-line growth are expected to be achieved automatically.

At this level, HR becomes responsible for identifying core competencies necessary for their organization to attain leadership position. Further HR facilitates in

* Aligning employees to a common set of objectives derived from the mission and value statements,
* Mitigation of risk by devising appropriate Succession Planning Strategies,
* Identification of top-performers and non-performers,
* Continuous measurement of the effectiveness of leadership and employee satisfaction,
* Increasing employee engagement through appropriate measures,
* Aligning compensation to performance,
* Adjustment of recruitment and training to competency gaps,
* And specifying well-defined Job Descriptions, which map to the organization structure. These become the basis of Recruitment, Goal Setting, Training, Performance Evaluation and Career Development.

As a strategic partner HR uses a variety of automation tools for Learning Management, Employee Performance Management, Compensation Planning, Recruitment and On-boarding, Succession Planning, Alignment and Employee feedback.

The largest benefits accrue when employees are encouraged to use these tools as a routine practice at their work place. An integrated view of employee's life cycle in the organization is visible through appropriate dashboards which are available to the decision makers at all levels in the organization.

Author's Bio: 

Tushar Bhatia is the President of Saigun technologies and the Chief Architect of EmpXtrack, which is a SaaS based Human Capital and Talent Management Software. With over 15 years of experience in the Software Industry, Tushar is driven in helping improve the profitability of client organizations through innovative use of technology and a focus on developing talent. With a significant part of his career in the area of developing HR automation software, he founded one of the most innovative HR platforms in the world: EmpXtrack. EmpXtrack offers a set of tools, which can assist organizations in speedy maturity of their HR processes irrespective of their current status. It contains 18 modules clubbed in four distinct categories of Performance Management, Recruitment, HR Strategy and Human Capital Management .