HR Leads Business

Sep 9, 2016 | Barry Lawrence, Staff Writer

The Art of Implementing HR Best Practices

Plenty has been written about the “top” or “best” human resource management best practices for an organization. But what about the “art of implementing” HR best practices. How do HR professionals go about identifying best practices and adapting them to the specific needs of a business? Why do the “best,” best practices succeed at one company and fail in another?

Lack of data is a primary challenge, reports Bersin & Associates, a talent management advisory and consulting firm: “As HR leaders seek to identify and advocate for the best possible people-related business decisions, they often lack the kind of data, process support and industry-level standards that leaders of other functions rely on for guidance.”

Too often, HR leaders must “cobble together a new vision for their HR functions with few examples of excellence or guidance,” the consulting firm adds.

Core Capabilities as a Foundation

Equally important, however, is that HR leaders must ensure their organizations have mastered core HR functions as “best practices” before they can hope for other transformational changes. Such core functions, based on research by Bersin & Associates, include:

  • Structured governance and business case development.
  • Advanced workforce planning capabilities.
  • Ability to implement the “right” HR philosophies.
  • Reduction in administrative work for HR business partners.
  • Flexible HR organization design.
  • Employee-facing HR systems.
  • Measurement of both HR operational and business metrics.
  • Development of internal HR skills.
  • Line manager capabilities.
  • Strategic outsourcing of HR services.

The Right Fit

Organizational fit for a best practice is also value.

Best practices can fail and even stifle innovation “if they’re not appropriately adapted to a company’s unique needs,” warns a new report on HR best practices cosponsored by HR Certification Institute (HRCI) and Top Employers Institute. The report sheds light on the best practices that have the strongest bearing on revenue and profits.

Let’s look at the adoption of a competency model, for example. The Korn/Ferry Institute provides some interesting questions and steps to consider:

  • Accessible, practical, and simple. No “HR-speak,” the institute warns. Line managers will not adopt competencies if they are not clear and practical.
  • Global relevance. Will the competency model work across global norms and cultural differences?
  • Consulting-support or self-sufficiency. Are competency modeling experts needed to help integrate competency best practices throughout your talent management process? Or, will a “do it yourself” implementation provide more flexibility?
  • Integrated tools and resources. What additional tools will be needed to integrate competencies into the everyday practices of your people managers?

Best Practice and World-Class Performance

“The use of best practices, when incorporated within all areas of an organization, including its stakeholder relationships, can lead to an organization attaining world class performance,” posts the Business Performance Improvement Resource(BPIR), “Often, an organization may use one or more best practices and become renowned for their performance in these areas, but unless best practices are adopted consistently across all the functions of an organization, as encouraged by business excellence models, it is likely that world class levels of performance will remain out of reach.”

Robert Camp, considered by some the father of benchmarking, identifies key best practice challenges. His advice still rings true from his 1989 book, Benchmarking:

  • Having sufficient knowledge of your own systems and processes to be able to compare against others.
  • Knowing where to find best practices.
  • Knowing whether a particular best practice is suitable to your situation.
  • Adapting the best practice to your organization.
  • Finding the time and resources for the above.

Businesses have a lot to gain from the adoption of HR best practices. Some best practices will require minimal organizational change, while others may lead to significant transformation. Either way, it is up to polished HR professionals to ensure that they have a solid HR infrastructure in place to accept change, that they understand how the new practice will impact their organization, and that they know how to creatively adapt best practices to work for their particular organizations.