Is organisation design for me?

By Warren Howlett, Head of HR Content at the CIPD.

The shutters are down in the meeting room, through the open door you catch a glimpse of management consultants at the white board with the heading “Org Design Criteria”. Should HR be involved here? The answer is yes! Far too often we hear HR people say they have been brought into an organisation design project too late, and then need to scramble to deliver to the timescales.

Organisation design is a expert technical process that requires a specialist set of knowledge and skills, but HR professionals more broadly have an important, not to say critical, role in ensuring successful organisation design and transformation projects. In the “new” profession map (CIPD, 2018) enabling effective change has moved from an organisation design and development specialism to being “Core” for all people professionals.

HR professionals have an important role in shaping and enabling organisation design work. They have the best knowledge and understanding of employee data; often know where the HR and work-process related secrets are hidden. They understand climate and culture; and those undiscussable issues, including power bases and hierarchies, that could derail a transformation.

Moving into the implementation of a new organisation design, HR professionals can enable organisation design specialists to understand the talent pool, its knowledge, skills, behaviours, and potential. As organisation design specialists draw out a structure and design roles; HR can take account of available talent within and outside the organisation; how new roles will be created, communicated, and filled. Then considering the best way to build, buy, partner, or change ways of working to solve for capabilities gaps as well as how to manage performance.

Throughout, HR professionals more broadly have the expertise and breadth to consider issues in the context of the whole organisation and the impact of changes in a specific business unit, function, or department. Finally, HR professionals can take the learnings and apply them in other parts of the organisation; challenging and moderating behaviours and ensuring employees are treated fairly and ethically.  

HR professionals should be proactive, confident, and expert in their contributions, but the first step in having a greater impact on organisation design success is better understanding how and when they can contribute. It’s for that reason that we’ve created a one-day short course on organisation design to equip any people professional with a variety of practical models, approaches and tools to understand the principles and applications of organisation design.

At a time when the role and contribution of both HR and organisation design professionals can be challenged, they must work together effectively in their common goal to enable the organisation to achieve its purpose and sustainable performance in a rapidly changing business context.

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