How to increase the impact of HR

Illustration: Studio Fee Overbeeke

What is good (or even better “world class”) HR?

In this article, I review 13 ingredients of what I consider good HR.
Good HR is HR that makes a major contribution to achieving the objectives of the organisation, keeping an eye on the interests of all the people connected to the organisation: HR with impact.

1. HR speaks the language of the organisation

The HR handbook has many chapters. Many HR professionals want to implement the complete handbook. A lot of time has already been lost with the design and implementation of competency profiles. Because HR wants them so badly. However, the starting point for HR should not be the HR handbook, but the current organisational issues. HR must understand these issues, and then choose and design the most impactful HR interventions.

Question 1: To what extent does your HR team speaks the language of the business?

2. HR works multidisciplinary

In many organisations, the staff is divided into different areas. Finance, Legal, Strategy, Communications, Knowledge Management, IT, HR and special projects. This division can lead to silos and power struggles between the staff departments. Which department has the ear of the CEO and the Board? Which department has the largest budget?

Most issues today require a multidisciplinary approach. Example: how can we connect our employees worldwide on different themes? Global communities can only be created if IT, HR, Communications and Legal join forces. HR is in the position to act as a connector between the different groups.

Question 2: How good is your HR team in connecting the various disciplines within the organisation?

Multifunctional teams

3. HR is more leader than follower

HR is often submissive. Submission is often accompanied by fear, and fear is a very bad adviser. Regularly I hear HR say: I think it is a good idea, but how do I sell it to my boss? Once I attended a meeting for HR professionals where a CIO told how in her organisation, using Google+, several effective communities were created. The questions from the audience were focused on control. Who decides which communities are created? What do you do when people do not want to participate or if abuse is made?

Question 3: Which description fits better with your HR team: leaders or followers?

4. HR has clear principles/ HR has a point of view

Each organisation will benefit from clear and transparent principles. The values of organisations are important and HR can be a good guardian of these values. ‘Integrity’ is in most organisations one of the published values. In translating the values of the organisation in desired behaviour for leaders and other employees, HR can play an important role.
Also in the design of compensation and benefits, it is important to be guided by clear principles. A quote out of the article “11 HR trends to take into account for 2021”:

When HR sees things that are not acceptable, they should intervene and not stand by. Some examples:

  • The members of the board make dubious jokes.
  • The best qualified candidate for a job is not appointed, because she is a woman or comes from the wrong part of town.
  • AI powered selection leads to very strange conclusions.
  • The whistle blower is neglected.
  • Unsafe working conditions are not discontinued.
  • There are indications of nepotism.

Question 4: Does HR have clear principles?

Read: To a more human and holistic HR

5. HR is flexible

If you ask HR a question, the answer is generally: this is not possible/this is not allowed. Equality and fairness are often important principles for HR. This makes it difficult for HR to make exceptions. Because if we do that for you, everybody will come along! If you want to promote diversity and if you want to get the best out of employees, it fits less and less to apply rules to which no exceptions can be made.

Question 5: Is your HR department sufficiently flexible and employee focused?



6. HR has a sense of humour

There is often too little laughter. We must hurry! We must move on! It helps if HR can take some distance, and adds some humour to the mix. What are we doing? Do we not take ourselves too seriously?

Question 6: Can you laugh with HR or do you laugh about HR?

7. HR likes to experiment

Too much time is wasted in developing and discussing plans. While you are discussing plans, nothing happens. What we want is often not so difficult to determine. We want motivated employees. The strategy must be to be understood. The best people should be in the most important key positions.
It is more difficult to determine how we can achieve our goals. Experimenting helps. Do a test with a small group and see if it works. “Whatever works” could also be the motto for HR.

Question 7: Does your HR team dare to experiment?

Read: 7 aspects of agile HR and

Agile HR

8. HR can implement

See point 7: not the What but the How is often the problem. There is a graveyard with plans that are not or half-heartedly implemented. HR must be the king of fast and successful implementation.

Question 8: Is your HR good at implementing major projects?

Read: Making an HR Plan

People Strategy

9. HR dares to innovate

Many organisations want to copy other organisations. The benchmark thinking preached by many consulting organisations has done no good. Why would you want to do what others do? Why would you not want to be an innovator and front-runner? HR can take the lead, especially because many of the current HR practices need to be renewed.

Question 9: Does your HR team dare to innovate?

Read: 7 conditions that help to be innovative in HR

10. HR has a strong network

The network of HR can work as an accelerator. If HR has quick access to partners with unique knowledge, HR can quickly implement creative and innovative solutions. HR as a spider in the network of change agents and key employees of the organisation, can quickly sense if changes can count on sufficient support. If the CHRO has a good network, she can build a strong HR team.

Question 10: Does HR have a large and strong network?

Read: Organisational Network Analysis

11. HR can calculate

With the current computing power, it is possible too quickly analyse data. HR analytics provides the ability to produce facts and not opinions. Myths and prejudices can be unraveled. Predictions about the future can be made fact based.

Question 11: Does HR use of the opportunities offered by people analytics?

Read: People Analytics – 5 steps

12. HR comes with practical solutions

In the end organisations have to work. HR is there to come with simple workable solutions. Keep moving, and adapt to the increasing speed.

Question 12: Does HR come with practical and simple solutions?

Read: HR, keep it simple

13. HR has a broad scope

There are many groups of people important for organisations. Employees, flex workers, candidates, suppliers, shareholders and people in society. It helps a lot if HR is close to the clients of the organisation as well. Sometimes HR only focuses on the employees on the payroll and the other people are considered to be out of scope. Broadening the scope helps to increase the impact.

Question 13: Does HR care about people, also if they are not on the payroll? 


HR with impact

11 HR Trends to take into account for 2021

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