What is a Center of Expertise?

In our traditional 3-circle HR service delivery models (Ulrich model really), one of the major components is the center of excellence or center of expertise (COE).  The COE has never really evolved over time, but perhaps it’s ripe to do so now.  Traditional COE’s have always been benefits, compensation, recruiting, etc…  However, this may not eventually be the right COE’s for an HR model of the future where we are less focused on internal policy and procedure, and more focused on what the business needs.

Perhaps we are transitioning to a COE model if the future.  We now see many more VP’s of talent where they view all the cross functional components of talent from performance to comp to workforce planning and recruiting.  These may bring together individuals from the more traditional COE’s or they may be completely new structures with new dedicated employees.

I’m very interested in what a COE might look like in the more distant future though.  Perhaps a COE on how HR can integrate talent with innovation planning?  Perhaps a COE to ensure that competencies are effectively communicated to the business and collaboration executed?  Or even an R&D COE that mixes individuals from the business and HR practitioners?

When we’re designing COE’s we should not just think of them as policy and design.  We should look beyond traditional employee programs that we deliver and start thinking about how we get more cross functional within our overall HR organization.  Then we should look beyond that and see how we can be more cross functional within the confines of the business as a whole.

I think that this is one of those little thought about areas where we can help ourselves to a “seat at the table.”  Rather than thinking strategically at the top levels of HR, shouldn’t all of our COE’s be doing the same?

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