Five Levels of HR Leaders and Managers By T. V. Rao

The reason why most people in HR don’t make it to the top is because they have been playing lower level roles and have not groomed themselves as “HR Driven Business Managers”. I classify the HR Managers in to five categories based on the work they do. These are five levels described. After reading this article you can decide which level you belong.

1. HR Administration

Level one at the bottom is ”HR Administration” in which documentation, data gathering, record keeping, and MIS is the main focus. This work is largely clerical and outsourceable. Anyone can do it with some instruction.

Purpose: smooth running of HR department or section through flawless administration.

Activities: Data recording and maintenance. Recruitment records, performance records, attendance reports, salary details, leave details, infrastructure and facility details, training programs attended, workshops arranged, training programs conducted, induction reports etc. Fixing deadlines, getting formats printed or put into the software, circulating formats, getting the forms filled, feeding into the computer, preparing reports periodically, preparing reports for senior HR managers etc.  Any graduate or PG is HR will do the job well.

Output: Records, information availability and flawless administration.

2. Monitoring and Execution

Level  two is “Monitoring and Execution” in which the focus is collecting information, reminding people, getting forms filled and statutory obligations fulfilled etc. This may include sometimes data analysis and feedback to the top management.  The measures are quantified in terms of appraisal forms filed in time, Capacity utilisation of training centres, recruitment and  retention rates of employees, recruitment time reduced, projects completed, costs saved  etc.

Purpose: To ensure the smooth running and completion of all HR activities on time and according to standards.

Activities: Designing and getting recruitments records completed and ensuring that recruitment process is followed according to manpower plans and departmental requirements; ensuring that appointments letters are issued as per the norms and offerings and joining reports are filed and legal formalities are taken care of; issuing instructions of performance appraisals and ensuring completion and filing of PAS on time and of quality, reverting back to HODs and other managers for incomplete data and other indications of low quality PMS, documenting and analysing data and computing eligibility criteria and ensuring normality in assessments; organising meeting with HDs and performance review committees to decide and allocate PRPs or other incentives: analysing training needs and tabulating them and informing the HODs of the trends, liaising with training department and ensuring training calendar is prepared as per the needs expressed, sponsoring candidates for training, calculating training man-hours completed, preparing training budget if required and ensuring that the budget spending is in limits and as per norms; collecting training evaluation reports and ensuring that training programs are held on time and as per quality or design, ensuring ISO requirements are met; taking up exit interviews, analysing data and passing it on to HOD or the CEO periodically, arranging in-house training, contacting training agencies and getting training calendars, consolidating training calendar and sending it to line managers, analysing attrition details and bench marking with other industries, locating recruiters and recruitment agencies and arranging recruitment interviews to ensure that best candidates are selected, getting employee engagement surveys are conducted and results obtained for use by the HR department etc.

Output:   Smooth functioning of all HR systems and subsystems. On time completion of all system requirements for recruitment, appointments, induction, training, appraisal, surveys etc. and systematic recording and analysing of data and initiating corrective action where required with the help of HR Chief or HODs or top management. Cost effective management of all HR subsystems.

3. Designing and Implementing

Level three is “Designing and Implementing”  in which the focus is reviewing the existing systems, redesigning and starting new practices in performance appraisals, incentives & performance linked pay,  learning and development,  employee engagement, or great place to work etc surveys and practices. These also can be outsourced now a days using consultants.

Purpose: To ensure that all HR systems (recruitment, induction, competency mapping, training, performance appraisal and management, career planning, succession planning, employee engagement surveys etc.) are modernised and remain contemporary, innovative and relevant to the needs of the company.

Activities: Commissioning studies or consultancies on competency mapping, performance appraisal, performance linked incentive schemes,  retention, assessment and development centres and launch leadership  programs; attending and personally supervising the programs, collecting information from line managers about the functioning of various systems, reviewing implementation of various systems, benchmarking systems and their implementation with other organizations, attending conferences and seminars to search for innovative HR practices of other organizations,  generating various reports including HR audit, employee engagement, PMS, training etc and presenting to the top management, ensuring internal communications are made on various systems, orienting and reorienting various employees and line managers on new or revised systems, redesigning HR systems and practices, communicating to all employees, training internal change agents etc.

Output: How much and how many systems and subsystems have been reviewed, rejuvenated and new standards implemented; how many line managers have been reoriented and the consequent benefits to the company, reduction in attrition rates, benchmarking of training involvement and attributable performance improvements, number of leaders covered and leadership programs etc. conducted. The extent to which HR systems stay relevant and bench markable.

4. Strategising, Innovating, Integrating and Leading

The fourth level is “Strategising, Innovating, Integrating and Leading”. In this level HR has to be aligned with business and the concerns shift from having good HR to having Business driven HR, strategic HR. The HR person at this level is constantly looking for what C K Prahalad called as “Next Practice” and “Business driven HR practice”. This level HR people focus on building leadership cross the organization; use multiple tools including 360 Degree feedback, Development Centres, top management team building and OD exercises etc.  Here HR becomes talent focused and the concern is on acquiring, retaining, nurturing and multiplying talent.

Purpose: To provide HR leadership in all areas by making HR strategic, participative, innovative and integration of all functions and business. To ensure that all HR systems and practices are aligned to business strategies and priorities; to initiate and mange HR leadership activities in tune with the aligned HR strategies. To make innovative HR practices and remain ahead of others.

Activities:  Active participation in strategic meets and business discussion, continuous liaison with all business Heads and ensuring that their needs and plans are understood, orienting and reorienting HR systems and practices to business needs, conducting strategic HR meets for HR staff and line managers, attending seminars and conferences to learn about others and present one’s own thoughts and studying practices of other corporations. Preparing HR strategies, HR plans and presenting to top management and getting them reviewed. Reviewing HR systems and getting them audited and initiating redesigned systems and practices. Preparing vision, mission values workshops and examining organizational structures through competency mapping and such other studies. Getting competency models prepared for the company and its various business units and designing Business leadership Development programs using the competency models and assessment based on 360 Degree Feedback, ADCs and other interventions for top management. Participation on brand building activities. Internal leadership development of HR team and other line managers. Initiating innovative HR practices. Getting HR discussions and talent management issues discussed in Board meetings and through special seminars and activities. Getting top management time, attention and participation in various HR systems initiated.

Output: Strategic and business aligned HR. Perception of HR as a leader in managing the corporations’ affairs. More top management roles for HR people and increased consultation of HR managers by business heads. Hr joins the top position. High respect for HR and talent Management interventions.

5. HR as Business

The fifth level HR is focused on making “HR as Business”.  This level managers realize that there can be no business without talented people at all levels and particularly at the top. This is based on the philosophy that people make business and therefore business driven talent management is essential. The focus shifts from tangibles to intangibles and immediate and short term performance goals to building long term capabilities and from quarterly results to intellectual capital building and shareholder value enhancement and stake holder management including customer service and growth, expansion, new opportunities etc. Dave Ulrich calls this Outside –in HR. I call this Business Focused HR.

Purpose: To become a part of business and drive business through talent and various stake holder management. Continuous contribution to Intellectual capital of the company by balancing HR activities needed for company’s business and meet expectations of all stake holders (investors, customers, Board, government, community and environment).

Activities: Here the activities can be classified according to various take holders. In relation to the company the activities of HR include constantly in touch with customers, technology, finances, products and internal processes and ensure that the top line and bottom line are managed continuously. Focusing on talent as a means of achieving such balance and therefore aligning and using talent for the same. Active involvement all business activities and even driving some of them. Ensuring that organizational structures and systems going beyond HR are evolved and utilized to take the business ahead and using talent as driver for the same. Building internal capabilities and lifting up the talent in the company to make this happen. Vis-a-Vis the customer understanding the customer constantly and aligning his needs and expectations with products, processes and services. Strengthening linkages between the customer and company through appropriate talent utilizing and managing interventions. Understand the community requirements and initiating and managing activities that service the community and the environment through CSR, SHE and such other activities. Liaising with Government and participating in its activities and informing them of the service to the surroundings and the community. Continuous contribution to the Intellectual capital of the company through building customer capital, human capital, structural capital,  relationship capital and other forms to ensure share holder value.

Output: High share holder value attributable to Intellectual Capital built through Talent Management and HR interventions. Some of these are explained in my book on HR Score Card 2500.

Mature HR people reach this level faster in their career ladder and can become CEOs fast. The trouble with most HR people today is that they are stuck at the lower levels. A large number of them fail to grow beyond the first three levels. Many of them get habituated to hire consultants and outsource their work rather than themselves doing significant HR work. How can you grow to be a CEO when you outsourced  recruitment , training, competency mapping, ADCs, employee engagement surveys and everything  and acted like “Materials Manager” getting tender documents and finding out least expensive consultants than understanding your customers and other stake holders and directing your talent to be business focused  Such HR people can’t grow to be CEOs. Our B-Schools in HR are not preparing HR for CEOs and are aiming at preparing them the first two or three levels of HR.

All CEOs are required to be good HR people and past leaders have demonstrated this. It is high time HR recognizes the potential they are sitting on and change their ways.

T. V. Rao is Chairman, TVRLS and a Adjunct Professor at IIMA.  He is currently developing a tool to assess the level of each HR Manager at TVRLS. 

Disclaimer: This article was posted by Mr. T.V Rao in his blog on 5th Feb 2013.
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