Reflecting on what Paul Langton-Rose said a few weeks back about the role of HR in Organisation Design, I found myself considering whose role it is to make sure this happens.

You might expect a business leader embarking on organisational change to say something like, “It’s my business, I know how it needs to be designed.  HR just needs to administer the people changes and manage the resourcing, right?”  If a business leader said this to me, I’d ask them what they think their HR Business Partner is for.  If they didn’t have a HR Business Partner, I’d have some questions for the HR Director about the effectiveness of their HR Operating Model and how it provides truly strategic support to the business.  Experience tells me that the difference between a truly effective and sustainable organisation design and one that is not, is the level of strategic HR involvement.  The premise of the HR Business Partner model is to enable better people related decision making, which supports the business strategy.  It is also about having an ‘account manager’ to ensure the business gets what it needs from HR.  It would therefore seem ludicrous to embark on the biggest kind of people and business change without your HR Business Partner at your side. 


Because your HRBP knows about optimal people performance.  This isn’t just about having people with the right skills in roles, it is about designing the right roles to enable people to be effective in them.  This means the right accountabilities, the right interfaces, the right location, and proper consideration of the right skills and experience required.  For effective people management and decision making, it also means the right spans of control and the right governance model within the organisation.  Many managers believe organisation design is simply organisation charts and role profiles, when in fact those are the finishing touches on a well thought through, integrated design, involving many more jigsaw pieces.

Because your HRBP knows about implementing and sustaining people change.  Designing the new organisation or re-designing the existing organisation is just the start, no change will be made until it is implemented, and the success of the change depends on how effectively that is done.  Implementing the organisation design presents many challenges – When should it be implemented?  How will people be appointed?  How will we manage the communication and engagement levels through the change?  How will we manage the transition?  Notwithstanding the legal obligation to consult if the design results in changes to employment terms or redundancies.   Your HRBP can play a key role in helping to address these challenges and also turn them into opportunities. Together, you can work with the Learning, Talent and Resourcing teams to develop a robust approach to assessment and selection, which can provide a valuable insight into the talent pool.  You can ensure the output from any assessment is used to build capability in the future organisation and encourage the culture change you require.

But mainly, because your HRBP is your route to wider HR.  To ensure a sustainable performance and people change, you need to plan for this upfront and ensure the OD approach from design through to sustain is aligned.  Your HRBP can help you take a forward view.  They can support with providing expertise to build the Organisation Design strategy from the start and ensure that the right stakeholder alignment, risk mitigation and capability needs analysis is built into the design phase.  They can also work with wider HR to ensure they are set up to support the OD as, and when, required.  If the organisation regularly undergoes change and the HR function is particularly mature, there may be a centre of excellence with OD experts, from which the HRBP can ensure that the business benefits.  The HRBP can also manage the relationship with HR Operations or Shared Services to ensure that any updates to people data and systems are planned and completed with minimal risk or disruption.  By engaging your HRBP from the start, you can work together to ensure that what you design really gives you the people and structure change you require.

So, whose job is OD?  Well, it’s the job of the business and HR together, and your HRBP is the link that is often missing.