December 17, 2015

What roles do I need in an internal HR team?

HR encompasses so many different roles. There’s L&D, reward, recruitment and employee relations, to name a few. Having a team or teams that comprise all these different elements of HR is costly, a cost that small organisations and many middle-sized organisations cannot afford. Even those organisations that can afford to cover everything with an in-house team, may choose to outsource certain disciplines and only maintain core competencies internally.

Size has a lot to do with it. Smaller organisations often have just one person who is responsible for HR, be they an HR director or most likely, an HR administrator. This person will by necessity be a generalist, covering most of the HR function, but buying in extra resources where needed. Typically, this means buying in expertise in niche specialisms, such as employment law. Many middle-sized and even large organisations also choose to outsource these niche roles, largely for cost reasons.

It all comes down to which are the skills and roles that your organisation most needs and what the best way is of meeting those needs. Is it from an internal person or team or external person or team? How business critical is this role? If it is a business critical role and one that requires the person to work closely with the business over a long period of time, establishing strong relationships with different functions, then maybe it’s a role that needs to be in-house. The scope and breadth of a role often determines how it is fulfilled.

The other question is of course, what can you afford? What is the best way to spend your money? Is it having someone in house to fill a particular role, or outsourcing the role on a needs basis, or having someone on a retainer?

Many organisations follow the Ulrich model, whereby HR is split up into shared services, a centre of excellence and business partners. Typically, this entails having HR specialists, such as in reward, employee relations and talent. These specialists perform an HR business partner role, working in close partnership with other business functions. Recruitment or L&D, example, are obvious HR business partner roles. For these kinds of roles, companies need the HR people involved to really understand the culture of the business, know where the business is heading, where the industry is heading, what the drivers are and what the workforce needs and skills are. HR business partners need to operate at the heart of the business. Many think that this kind of deep understanding comes best from internal resources.

In larger organisations, there can be different layers of HR personnel – the overall director of HR, heads of different units and then specialists within those units.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has developed a Profession Map. This Map looks at many aspects of HR and one element that relates to this blogpost is the focus on activities and knowledge. Organisations need to know what activities and knowledge they need from their HR function, how best to get them and how best to use them. Each organisation is different, thereby their needs are different. It’s a case of working out what suits you best as an organisation, what will bring the most business benefit and what is most cost effective.

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