Building Integrated Human Resources Systems
Establishing an HR Platform
by Karen Kennedy, Ray Svenson, and Guy W. Wallace
Originally published in the winter 1994 issue of Pursuing Performance.
The architecture of a business provides data about the structure of the business, its component parts, and how the parts work together to achieve the mission of the organization. The business architecture provides the basis for building a platform for a set of integrated human resources processes.
Our HR platform is similar in concept to the platforms used by automobile and computer manufacturers: time- and money-saving devices that allow those manufacturers to build a variety of different products starting with a common framework and using shared elements. It allows HR processes to be customized to fit the needs of any specific organization and to evolve with it.
Figure 1: The Business Architecture, Showing Linkages
The HR platform is a “systems architecture” designed around the following concepts.
1. HR management is a business process, not just a function or a department.
2. The mission of the human resources process is to manage the inventory of human assets for the company in order to enable achievement of present and future business performance goals. This is accomplished through organization and job design, staffing, training and development, assessment, and reward and recognition. This means having the right knowledge and skills, attributes, and values in the right place at the right time, and having the use of the knowledge and skills, attributes, and values properly rewarded and supported by the environment.
3. Most of the decisions in the HR processes are made by executives, managers, teams, and individuals outside the HR discipline or department.
4. HR as a discipline or department “owns” the HR processes and provides professional discipline expertise. HR trains others on how to use processes to make effective HR decisions.
5. The overall business is a performance system (see the article titled “Bravely Re-engineering Human Resources”).
6. The HR platform is an architectural prototype for an HR performance system within the business system.
7. The overall HR process or system within any business can be an engineered application of that prototype.
8. Our platform architecture features an integrated set of HR processes that all rely on a common set of HR infrastructure requirements (knowledge and skills, attributes, and values).
Figure 2 below shows the way we break out individual HR processes from the overall HR business process.
Figure 2: HR Processes
The five HR processes in the middle tier of Figure 2 may look familiar; however
• Those processes all rely on a common set of data, the HR infrastructure requirements. Everything is driven by the business architecture. Instead of the data for the assessment and training and development processes coming from disparate sources, the data flows from the same source.
• This is a holistic view of human resources.
The three-tiered view not only focuses on the five HR product/service delivery processes but on the leadership and support processes, as well.
Requirements for Using the HR Platform
Platform-based HR processes provide a method of extracting, organizing, and linking the data needed for integrated responses to HR-related issues. While such data can be expensive to develop and maintain, the platform can greatly reduce overall HR costs.
Contrast the integrated approach to the way organizations typically go about gathering HR requirements data. Five different HR groups conduct job analyses for different purposes, and overlaps and gaps between the gathered data are inevitable. In addition to the redundant effort, these traditional HR silos all have different names for the same or similar data, leaving employees and business leadership confused. A single, common assessment cuts the labor and cost involved in gathering the data and eliminates the confusion over what to call the data.
The objection of each HR group to this single assessment may be, “My system isn’t designed to use their data; I need my own data.” The solution is to engineer the data system to meet all HR needs. Also essential is re-engineering HR processes to require integrated decision-making and to break down the “silos” within HR, eliminating separate groups pursuing separate agendas with the same internal clients.
The point of having HR processes based on the HR platform is to enable integrated responses to strategic business issues based on common analysis data—responses that are faster, cheaper, and yield better results in meeting the needs of other organizational systems. The needs may stem from business process re-engineering, setting up a new plant, or entering a new market.
Since the five HR product/service delivery processes are all driven by the data from the business process/performance requirements and the infrastructure requirements, we can design and organize HR responses in a strategic and integrated manner. The HR process integration enables us to be systematic and organized. If, for instance, our organization’s strategic goal is to become a global company, the HR process helps us create HR strategy and tactics to staff, train, assess, and reward with that precise goal in mind.
The most important thing to understand about the HR platform is that it provides a method of creating a totally integrated human resources system—a system capable of keeping up with the challenges presented by re-engineering and continuous change of all of the other business processes.
Because the platform “wires” together all HR processes and links them to business needs, we can see HR issues from a multi-HR process perspective—we know whether selection, training, or some combination is the best HR approach for a particular change, problem, or challenge.
In the re-engineered world of business, nothing is more important than determining both the as-is and “as-re-engineered” human performance process requirement, and the HR platform will make it possible to customize HR processes for any business and do so accurately, economically, and quickly.
As a company’s external or internal environment changes, the integrated HR processes based on the platform will enable the company to cope more effectively. For instance, the integrated HR processes may tell us that a person in a wheelchair can now perform a job in a re-engineered manufacturing process. Similarly, the platform-based HR processes will pinpoint the values necessary for a new role or position in a business process. Ultimately, the HR platform will enable us to be more exacting in all human resources decisions.
The process of re-engineering the overall HR process by using the platform concept is shown in Figure 3 below.
Any re-engineering of HR should involve teams of HR people and their customers. The business architecture concept helps with the first two phases by focusing on HR requirements. The business architecture and the HR platform are tools to get the re-engineering done in a systematic way that ensures an effective, integrated result.
Figure 3: Re-engineering the Overall HR Process
There is a direct cost saving from reducing the dissonance of duplicate, often conflicting efforts of unintegrated HR processes. But a more significant financial benefit comes from having the right mix of competencies in the right places at the right time to achieve competitive business performance at the least cost.
Like any major business initiative, building a new set of integrated HR processes isn’t free. But as in any well-done initiative, the up-front investment is returned many times down the road. The entire HR function will operate for a fraction of its previous costs, providing more for less and integrating HR’s customers into the decision-making process.
As Tom Peters said, “Organizations must change the way they use their most valuable asset—human resources. Maximizing human capital must become a primary corporate mission.”
by Karen Kennedy, Ray Svenson, and Guy W. Wallace
Originally published in the winter 1994 issue of Pursuing Performance, the Svenson & Wallace Inc. quarterly newsletter.
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