The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

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I’m an advocate of reality.  It’s nice when you can look at something and immediately recognize it.  In most cases, a reflection of reality is quite obvious.  When I say the word “chair” each and every reader automatically has a concept generate in their heads – some with an armchair, some with an office chair, some with a wood dining room table chair, etc.  Everyone immediately thinks of a chair.  The problem with this is that one persons chair has fabric, another is made of wood, someone else might be thinking plastic or the nylon that makes up modern office furniture.  This is actually one of the reasons why stereotypes and words can be so offensive.  In certain derogatory words, while we all subscribe to different versions of reality, some words take on realities that are predominantly negative and untrue.

From a systems perspective, we need to be particularly careful about defining realities.  Incorrectly defining reality can be problematic not only to the end user and customer audiences, but it can be problematic for downstream systems as well.  Take for example, the way that you build the organization structure in your core HR system.  There are various ways to represent reality.  For starters, there is a definitive reason there is NEVER a single hierarchy.  Financial hierarchies never really match that well to the way HR needs to create supervisor relationships.  Some of us have matrixed organizations that are especially hard to depict.  Some of us have workflow and approval processes that differ between core HR transactions, performance, compensation and succession.  Who pays for a department organizationally may not be the direct supervisor relationship.

When we chose an organizational hierarchy most HR products (not all) embed organization structure, manager structure, and security structure all in the same hierarchy.  While there might be some flexibility, your choices of using a cost structure, an operational structure, a manager structure or anything else becomes critical in how the rest of the world is going to see your company.

Your core HRMS, whether you like it or not, is the system of record for almost all of your employee data.  This means that any downstream interfaces will likely receive some hierarchy information with the employee data, and if those downstream systems don’t realize that you used (example) a manager hierarchy that is not at all reflective of the operational structure, they are going to make the wrong assumptions in setting up how they utilize that employee data.

Reality is pretty important, but we need to recognize that there are multiple versions of reality going on.  HR’s reality is not necessarily how managers perceive the organization, and it’s certainly not how finance sees it.  The solution is simple though, we just need to first recognize what our assumptions were, and second publish those assumptions very specifically.

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