#Nextchat: HR’s Role in Organizational Design


by Mary Kaylor, Joe Jones, Ashley Miller and Lindsay Northon


The role of the HR professional continues to change, but one thing stays the same: Human capital management remains the key differentiator for organizational growth and success. 

One of the keys to effective human capital management is organizational design. Organizational design (OD) focuses on identifying and creating the right human structure within the organization and identifying the right competencies, knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics required in each part of that design. Although it can be difficult to find and hire talent, it can be an even greater challenge to build an organizational structure that will ensure that people with the right skills and competencies are working in the right jobs and teams now and in the future.

HR’s Role in OD and the Challenges

Many challenges exist regarding HR’s role in organizational design. Owning a significant organizational design effort from creation to implementation takes a lot of time, and most HR departments don’t have the resources to commit to this. Additionally, many HR departments lack the expertise necessary to build an organizational design plan. In the SHRM Online article Research: It’s Not a Four-Letter Word, SHRM Director of HR Competencies Joe Jones points out, “HR is no longer a simple art form. It is more science than art, rooted in well-planned, well-executed and actionable HR research that results in an improved organization, not a dusty report on a shelf that no one reads.”

An Ongoing Effort

Conducting a critical evaluation of how your organization is structured is not something that should be undertaken every five years. Organizational design must become an ongoing initiative and a core HR function. In the blog post Data Driven Organization Design—Q&A, Concentra CEO Rupert Morrison says that “The modern day organization is under increasing pressure to adapt quickly to changing markets and disruptive organizational events such as mergers and restructures as well as changes in working habits with digitally engaged, mobile workforces. This means people need to shift their perspective from seeing OD as a one-off activity to a continuous process required to hone and improve performance over time.”

OD Technology

Organizational design no longer means a list of names on a spreadsheet or the creation of a simple hierarchical chart. New HR technology can deliver powerful modeling tools and data that allow HR leaders to better visualize the people, skills and competencies in their organization.  

It has also become more precise. Instead of doing major restructuring, many companies are opting to focus on smaller slices within the organization—or micro-design—by looking at more agile clusters of jobs and functions that allow for easier monitoring and faster transformation when challenges or opportunities arise.

Regardless of the challenges they face or their level of involvement in this process, HR professionals can strengthen their proficiency in the HR competencies necessary to make greater contributions toward organizational design efforts.

How are you handling organizational design at your organization? 

Please join @shrmnextchat at 3pm ET on August 17 for #Nextchat with special guests SHRM Specialist, HR Competencies, Lindsay Northon (@HRCompetencies); SHRM Senior Specialist, HR Competencies, Ashley Miller (@Miller843); and SHRM Director, HR Competencies, Joe Jones (@josephajonesphd). We’ll chat about HR’s role in organizational design and how human capital management strategies can be more cohesive with organizational design efforts.

Q1. How does your organization approach organizational design, and how is HR involved?

Q2. How involved should senior leaders outside of HR be in organizational design planning? Which ones should be involved and why?

Q3. In what areas are organizations most likely to make errors with organizational design planning?

Q4. How or in what areas can HR use micro-design to make their organizations more agile?    

Q5. What specific data or analytics are most important to an organizational design plan?

Q6. What HR competencies should HR professionals strengthen to be more effective in organizational design?  

Q7. How can HR ensure that talent management strategies are aligned with their organizational design efforts? 

Q8. What role do competency models play in organizational design?


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