The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology


Lack of Use

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It’s been a while since I was on a bike.  All for good reasons, I haven’t actually been home in about 3 weeks.  I mean, you do need to have a bike available to you and decent roads to go for a ride.  I’m not sure that 3 weeks in NYC qualify.  First, I’m afraid of the incredible dust in the city – while I’m not afraid of traffic, I am extraordinarily afraid of dust and allergies that stay with me for days.  Back to the point though.  This morning, I went on my first bike ride since May 15 when I rode a meager 52 miles.  (yes, I have a diary of all this stuff, and yes, it’s fully GPS’d)  Just 3 months ago, I was riding about 80-90 miles without really suffering too much.  But this morning, I rode an easy 48 miles, and I swear my legs were about to fall off.  In what amounts to about 3 weeks, I have gone from barely competent to completely incompetent.  What is worse, in about 3 months, I have gone from decent to my current state.  There is good news though.  With hard work and training, I can get it all back.

The problem with HR competencies is not that most of us don’t have them, it’s that we’ve consciously decided to let some of it go.  Back in the day (all of 7 years ago), during the first major wave of HR outsourcing, organizations decided to outsource functions and thought that they didn’t need to retain the competency and roles.  After all, we were giving up these activities and people to someone who was going to take care of us.  These HRO organizations were going to be more efficient, save us money AND provide better service all at the same time.

Somewhere down the road, we realized that maybe it wasn’t all true.  As HRO organizations’ matured for the second wave of HR outsourcing, they realized that mentioning a retained organization might be a good idea.  The problem is that we didn’t really understand what the retained organization was all about yet, and there really weren’t leading practices around it.  So we kept a few people around in strategic capacities, and didn’t assume that the vendor was going to be the “be all, end all” for each of the outsourced functions.

Problem is that it took us a pretty long time to figure out what we were missing.  For example, it was often when we had a major PeopleSoft or SAP upgrade that we realized nobody was looking after HRIT in quite the same way we did ourselves.  We realized that as much as a vendor’s vanilla processes for performance management were nice starting points, real process design by people who knew the organization just wasn’t available.  We realized that we had gotten rid of a few too many people and the HRO didn’t pick up the slack they way we thought they might.

Not only did it take us a while to figure out what was missing, but after 3 or 5 or 7 years, we often didn’t really know how to fill the void that we felt within our organizations.  Writing job descriptions was hit and miss.  After all, these roles may have existed prior to outsourcing, but more often than not, they existed within multiple people, and figuring out what pieces of which people was getting pretty challenging.

We’re still struggling with this problem, but I think we’re struggling in the wrong way.  We’re writing job descriptions in the traditional way.  We are writing roles, tasks, responsibilities, etc.  But these roles are really more about competencies than tasks and responsibilities.  These roles used to be filled by a few people, and so many times they are cross functional, don’t require huge depth in subject matter expertise, and break down communication barriers between vendor/client, HR/technology, or functional areas.  Retained counterparts to outsourced organizations become communicators and translators, but it will take time to create these new roles and for us to understand and mold how they fit with our organizations and our vendors.  Luckily, we are finally at the point where we probably do get what we need, and how to fill that void, but it might take some time before we get it just right.

For me, I just need to get back on the bike…

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One response to “Lack of Use”

  1. […] HR AUGUST 16, 2010 Lack of Use These HRO organizations were going to be more efficient, save us money AND provide better service […]