Strategies for People departments

HR, Talent, Personnel, Training

This department’s role should be to support other groups, grow the skills of staff and done well it can be a huge enabler for the agility of a business.

However, all too often it bedomes a centralised bureaucratic barrier and blocker to change, through excessive red tape and rigid policies.


Staff Morale & Wellbeing

Of course pay is an important issue, but it is equally important to focus on the three key intrinsic motivators (and often much easier to make improvements): Autonomy (ability to make decisions and be master of their own destiny), Purpose (how the work contributes to meaningful benefits to customers and other staff) and Mastery (excellence and skill within the role).


Keeping the process simple, fast and lightweight is key.

That means putting maximum control in local manager’s hands and supporting them with good information and light touch constraints.

A good strategy is a local recruitment contact who sits inside each department and can immediately respond to local needs.

Training & Development

Of most value is on-the-job training and support that directly impacts people’s ability to do their job.

Whilst some classroom training will be needed, it is key to provide specialised coaching and support that is immediately transferable.

It is important to actively encourage and support the creation of “self-help” groups of similar roles from across the business as a self-organising and low-cost mechanism for improvement. A key focus should be sustainability and leveraging talent.

Legal & Union Exposure

There are always a minefield of legal issues to navigate (and union concerns may matter too). The key to handling this sensibly is to act with transparency and to assess risks proportionately.

That means making sure that a well-informed judgement is taken knowing how enforcing a barrier will affect the department or individuals concerned and the impact on the overall end-to-end service delivery.

Getting this balance wrong can be enormously expensive for the business even when it means a tranquil HR experience.

Leadership & Management

It is important to make sure that the whole organisation understands the difference between these two terms. A healthy goal in any organisation is to create more leaders and fewer managers.

The higher the degree of self-management built in to the way teams work, the lower the management overhead needed, particularly at the lower levels.

The key to a great People department is closeness to other groups and a deep understanding of what they need from their staff and the work that each role involves. Then working hard to provide as much value as possible with minimum bureaucracy.

Most functions are best performed close to the other departments that need them. That means sitting the majority of staff inside the departments they serve with relatively few people sat in the department’s core – that way response times are as fast as possible and a deep understanding of local needs grows naturally. Frequent sharing, coordination and contact with the centre ensure that work is performed to a consistent high standard.

Developing a detailed strategy will also depend on local circumstances. I’d welcome the opportunity to work with you to define a specific approach to your department.

Posted in Strategy.

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