In previous blogs I have discussed the meaning of Organisational Development and associated fields of which I have a passing interest.

When I talk to people about what I do they often say “So that’s kind of like HR?” And I usually reply that no, it’s not the same thing as HR – I usually describe OD as standing alongside HR (although there are compelling arguments that HR is actually part of OD; I have worked in an OD department where my team, which looked after organisational culture, was alongside the HR department, with a separate Learning and Development Programme and then the Strategy team. Interesting.)

Any road up, what I do isn’t HR but it fits nicely alongside HR. So what, then, is HR? My snappy and pat answer for this is simple: it’s getting the right people in the right place doing the right things in the right way within an organisation. Simple, so let’s see how complicated it actually is. And how OD is intertwined with the whole process.

The right people: you need people with the right skills, sure, but in my book it’s more important they have the right attitude and the right mindset, because it’s easier to teach skills than to change someone’s personality. This involves recruitment, but it also involves attraction – to get the right people you need to attract them in the first place, which means your employer branding needs to be coherent and authentic. I’ve discussed employer branding before, and will again, but the key thing for this blog is to ensure that the experience a candidate has during attraction, recruitment and on-boarding reconcile with their experience once they are in and on the job.

The right place: this is where we come to “the other OD” – organisational design. I have worked with many practitioners of this Dark Art, although I cannot and would not claim to be an expert. However, that will never prevent me from having an opinion, and in my humble one, Org Design is all about ensuring your structures, reporting lines, are aligned to the strategic aims of the organisation. As such is needs to be fleet of foot and fluid, keeping up with any shifts in strategy as the organisation develops, alongside the market in which the business is operating. 

It’s worth reflecting here, I think, that reporting lines are extremely important; not as lines of control, but as lines of communication; no matter how sophisticated your formal comms channels, line managers are still, for my money, the most important and influential comms channel in any organisation – and, as such, somewhere where it is vital you have the right people.

The right things – this covers the whole piece from role design to L&D to reward, recognition, competency frameworks and half of the whole appraisal process. As with the organisational structure, you need to make sure that roles are clearly and explicitly aligned to the organisational strategy – and are similarly fluid. It’s really important that the people doing things in your business know they are the things that are going to help the business achieve its objectives and fulfil its purpose. And it’s just as important that they are the right things.

The right way – this brings us to the second part of appraisal – how people are doing things – and this is the key grey area between HR and (my) OD – behaviours are an aspect of and, indeed, an output of the organisational culture, as I have discussed several times before. Your appraisal system should recognise and reward the right behaviours, just as much as the things they do.

I recall a story told me by one of the best leaders I ever worked with, who rose through the ranks of a call centre to become customer services director. He would often share with pride the fact that he sacked the most successful sales performer he had in his team because of how they achieved that success – alongside sales came bullying, intimidation and putting themselves before the team. Said customer service also fought to have behavioural measures alone on appraisals and targets. A truly great leader.

Anyway, that is the quick summary of what HR does, and it also needs the enabling functions – the Employee Relations team to ensure that the fluid structures and roles are changed effectively; the reward and payroll and systems and records teams to make sure that the right people really are in the right place and ensure that when they do the right things in the right way they are accurately compensated and recorded for posterity.

Clearly OD (and L&D) has an impact and input to every part of this model; culture, engagement levels and leadership all feed directly into to employer brand and how aligned it is with the actual experience of working in the organisation; culture equally defines how comfortable a fit those “right” people are.

Role profiles and competency frameworks are also key cultural artefacts – they are things that demonstrate what the culture is in an organisation; having  effective OD expertise and input can help an HR team align these to the values that you want to have within the organisation.

Reward strategies, HR policies and even payroll operation also benefit, in my experience, in having that clarity on what the organisation is here to do that also lies at the heart of OD. One of the best conversations I ever had in work began with “Why do I need to know what we sell, I work in HR”, and went on to see a series of lightbulb moments with the person who said it, and with the other members of their team.

So have a think. Do you have the right people, in the right place doing the right things in the right place? Can your HR team deliver that? What else can help? Have a think.