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The Power of Thinking Collectively in HR

Carol Anderson

Founder, Anderson Performance Partners

You’ve decided that it makes sense to think of your HR team as a business. You’ve done your due diligence and asked your customers about their needs, and solicited feedback on your products and services and the value they add to the business. Now, you have a messy piece of qualitative research. What's next?

It's time to look at the research as an HR team and think collectively.

Break Down HR Silos

HR is highly complex. Think of the sciences that contribute to the disciplines of human resources: sociology, psychology, anthropology, history, economics and political science, to name a few.

Some HR practices are highly analytical, such as crunching numbers, running spreadsheets and spitting out reports. Some are technologically focused, such as coaxing disparate systems to talk with each other. Others have a strong sales orientation, such as sourcing and enticing talent for the organization. Yet others lean toward the risk management and legal side of the business, requiring deep knowledge of labor law. And let's not forget the IT side of designing systems and processes for developing and growing talent.

Specialization within HR is necessary with such complexity, but it can also foster organizational silos.

Silos lead to insular departments that operate on their own, without a macro view of their work and how it impacts the organization—causing confusion for your team and your customers. By thinking together as an HR team, you can break down those silos, fine-tune your messaging points and provide a coherent, cohesive people strategy for your customers.

Define Your Strategy

When your team looks at that messy qualitative research together, I would be willing to bet a recurring theme is that managers have "too much HR work to do." What a terrific place to start thinking collectively!

An affinity diagram is a helpful method for organizing your data around this theme and finding ways to address the issue. First, inventory all of HR's demands on managers, including scope and content as well as dates the work is active or due. Then, take a step back from each demand to focus on the purpose of the work. If you cannot connect the task to a specific business purpose, stop doing it.

Next, use the research, along with your collective insight, to rate the remaining programs or processes. You've identified the business reason; now, does the program or process achieve its intended result? Does it impact the business? If you cannot identify a material impact, consider pausing the program and see if it is missed.

You should also look at your timelines. Are you asking managers to do everything at once? Consider changing your due dates. Overlap is another common reason for stress on managers. Are you asking for the same thing multiple times? At one organization, I saw an HR team asking managers for a performance appraisal twice a year, a monthly action plan to improve employee engagement scores, new job descriptions for every new or revised positions, ongoing talent/succession management profiles, salary reviews, stay interviews ... and that was only HR! Finance, Legal and Marketing all had their pieces of the manager, as well.

Challenge the Status Quo

Now, use the collective wisdom of the team to play in one another's sandboxes and shake things up.

Here’s the deal: Thinking collectively requires stepping back as a team and looking at your work through the lens of your customer, using all of your different specialties and strengths to evaluate the current products and services you offer.

Make only one decision together — keep it small and simple — and do it. Then, start the process over: Talk to your customers, gather feedback and evaluate the research as a team. The learnings will keep on coming when you think collectively.

Photo: Creative Commons

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