HR Strategy should not be like kissing your sister!

Im still amazed at the amount of HR professionals that are offering totally the wrong services, but are convinced they are acting in a strategic manner. Even sadder is that these HR folk think their organisations are lapping it all up and experiencing the the wonders of their works! ~ the ultimate result is that these HR people seemed to be the most shocked when they are terminated or their HR role is severely minimised because they “are not adding any value”

One of the key reasons for this scenario playing out so often in organisations across the world is that the level of “HR Maturity” in out of sync with what the organisation wants and in particular what the Executive layer in the organisaiton wants out of HR. Paul Kearns wrote a great book circa 2003 on the HR Maturity scale, and I think it is still so relevant today.

An organisation with a low level of HR Maturity ~ meaning that the organisations executive DOES NOT want more than basic & good HR administration, but definitely nothing near strategic operational HR services, don’t get what they want because of “blinded ” HR professionals. The HR manager often has an HR professional “hat” on and concludes that what this organisation needs is all so called “HR Best practices” because it’s what all good HR departments are doing! – boing! wrong!.

Lets take a practical example. Mr Good HR Manager pushes hard to enforce the company performance management system – he regularly feeds back at the HR management meeting that x% of staff have not completed their Performance review and spends enormous amounts of time ensuring everyone complies. During the annual promotion cycle the VP- Sales decides that John Soap will be getting promoted for his great efforts during the year. Mr Good HR manager protests that the Performance management system shows 3 other candidates are more deserving. The Sales VP dismisses it at ‘nonsense’.

Although the HR manager may in theory be right to be pushing a PM system, if the organisation does not use it because the HR maturity level is low, then its a waste of effort – he would be better off removing the PM system as it actually is a destructive tool ~ staff would not want to use it if they know VP’s simply have their own criteria for promotions.

In my view the level of HR maturity has a direct relation to what value HR can offer in an organisation. If its out of sync then you either get HR departments feeling sorry for themselves and constantly moaning that “nobody understand the value we can bring” or you get Executives that do actually understand what value HR can offer, but HR has their head in administration and don’t offer much value beyond this. Execs tend to then think “Just as i thought – HR is useless”

The important thing is to realise that not all companies want a strategic HR department, and there is nothing wrong with this. What you don’t want is an HR manager who cannot see beyond his HR blinkers and misalignes the HR offerings to his organisation.

The critical steps are:

  • Understand the HR maturity level in your organisation
  • Analyse your current HR services against the HR Maturity level and determine if these services are adding value
  • Stop value destroying services as soon as possible
  • if you are below the desired HR maturity level – develop a plan to get to the higher level
  • If you are above the desired HR maturity level – either educate and motivate change in your organisation to see the value these services can offer, or reduce the HR offering to support a lower HR Maturity level. It is always better to remove services not supportive of a particular  HR Maturity level (surprisingly it builds confidence in HR!)

By aligning your HR services properly to the level of HR Maturity in your organisation, you are guaranteed a “kiss to remember”



  1. Hi Rob

    Thanks for the kind comments about my book – thought you might like to know the publishers have asked me to write a 2nd edition – out later this year. This time it’s aimed directly at CEO’s – who needs the HR ‘middleman’?

    Best regards

    Paul Kearns

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