Navigo Blog

The Secret to HR org design

Written by Peter

Peter is Navigo's founder and Managing Director. Peter is passionate about building and running businesses, finding solutions to business process problems and new trends in HR Technology.

May 20, 2016

[2022 Update]

HR org design is no easy feat, continually restructuring and reorganising an entire organisation is a big task. Nowadays, most businesses see organisational redesigns as a regular, recurring HR activity – either to meet changing market demands, reducing costs or preventing stagnation.

Do them well, and you’ll have a more competitive, powerful and engaged team.

Do them poorly….and you’ll likely have poor morale, high turnover and reduced performance.


HR org design


The 4 secrets to good HR org design

Let go of the past

Every organisation has made poor decisions in the past. Don’t let these decisions hold you back any longer.

One of the best examples from the last decade is the retail businesses who didn’t effectively move online.

You can picture the board meetings pretty easily: “We’re a bricks and mortar store, not some silly website!”

“That’s not what we do.”

We all know how the end result of that attitude.

What you have done in the past may have been amazing. But is it what your organisation needs to stay competitive in the future?

If you’re a retailer, would you be better off opening up more stores and hiring sales assistants or hiring telephone support and web developers? Whatever the answer is, it has very little to do with “the way we do things around here”. Let it all go.


Find inspiration, not templates

At the other extreme, don’t necessarily assume that the latest whacky org structure being used by Startup X is the perfect structure for today’s environment.

Here’s the secret: There is no perfect HR org design.

Once you accept that fact, all of a sudden you start to critically look at other organisations’ structures. Startup X is great for them, but why do they need so many finance people? Without middle managers, how do they manage succession plans?

Take the elements you know work for one organisation and adapt them to your situation. The results aren’t guaranteed (after all, every organisation is different), but the aim isn’t to find answers – it’s to find inspiration.


Design in stages

Even though organisational redesigns are generally managed as a large project, you almost never want to implement a company-wide shift overnight.

It’s chaotic, it’s hard to manage and it disrupts everyone’s performance.

Your job is to minimise the chaos. Make the restructure manageable, effective and well-communicated (we don’t want anyone worrying about their job security).

How? Easy – set multiple stages for implementing the redesign. One approach is to start at the top of the funnel and work down, so restructure your marketing and front-line employees first, then filter back through to your back office and admin functions (remember – that’s one approach, not the approach!).

The added advantage to redesigning in stages is that you have time to reflect and adjust your plans as you go, mitigating the effect of any bad decisions you may have made (don’t worry – as you know, no redesign is ever perfect!)


Set clear goals and constraints

There’s nothing more paralysing than a blank canvas. When you have endless possibilities, it’s really hard to know where to start.

But even if you’ve been given the most open-ended HR org design brief of all time, there are always limits – budget, current capabilities and time for starters.

If you’re finding it hard to come up with solutions to your restructure issues, set yourself mini goals, like “let’s try a solution that doesn’t require any additional funding” or “let’s try a solution that meets a gender diversity target of 1:1”. These ‘virtual’ constraints may just give you enough of a starting point to get to a workable design.

If you can remember these 4 secrets, HR org design will always be manageable – I won’t say it will be easy, though.

Above all, no matter how awesome your design is, accept that it’ll never be perfect.



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