4 minute read

Auditing the effectiveness of your HR department: Part One

In the first of two articles, HR influencer Dave Ulrich and Joe Grochowski, managing director of The RBL Institute, show how to audit the effectiveness of your HR department

HR value creator

For the last 30 years, the RBL Group has been on the forefront of HR transformation.  We believe that HR is not about HR, but HR begins and ends with business.  We find that many who focus on HR transformation are focused almost exclusively on how to organise the HR department.  We believe in designing the right HR department, but focusing ONLY on the HR department is a narrow focus of the overall effectiveness of HR

As we have done empirical research with over 100,000 respondents and advisory services with dozens and dozens of HR leaders, we have distilled nine dimensions of an effective HR department.

These nine criteria for an HR department may be seen as delivering value at four stages:

  1. Foundational/Administrative: HR focuses on efficiency
  2. Functional: HR focuses on best practices
  3. Strategic: HR focuses on delivering strategy
  4. Outside in: HR focuses on stakeholders outside the organisation

This results in a matrix that can be used to audit the overall effectiveness of an HR department. Here we look at the first four of the nine domains: reputation, definition of success, strategy and design.

Review the domains by the four stages of HR departments and assess where your HR department is today.  Use a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being ‘low’ and 10 being ‘high', to assess your HR department in each domain and stage.


Effective HR department Stage one reputation

Effective HR department Stage two success

Effective HR department Stage three: strategy

Effective HR department Stage four: design

The challenge is that you can’t do everything well, so if you’ve already addressed the low hanging fruit, think about what you can decide to stop doing.  You may be doing work in HR that the business loves you for that isn’t in line with where the business is going. How do you manage that? It’s about being aggressive with priorities. 

Part two looks at the remaining five criteria: organisation capability, analytics, practices, HR professionals and work style.

The nine criteria for an effective HR department build upon, and extend, the RBL Group’s empirical research and books in a number of areas, such as our 13 milestones of HR transformation (HR Transformation), the research results from round seven of the HR Competency Study (HRCS), research from Leadership Brand ­– RBL’s organisation capability audit tool, RBL’s four practices of an HR department, RBL’s work on HR value creation and HR from the Outside I’, and HR department questions from the book ‘Victory through Organization’.

The RBL Institute is a think tank for senior HR executives from the world's top companies. For more information please go to https://rbl.net/index.php/institute
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