By Ann-Katrin Hardenberg

Dissolve the Personnel Department – Introduce Organizational Development!

Dissolve the Personnel Department – Introduce Organizational Development!

In recent months, we have been following a company where we have been impressed by how engaged the company’s CEO is, how he blogged and posted on internal social media every day. Every day you could see where he was going, what topics concerned him, and what was going through his head. In addition, he posted articles from various media channels about the topics of leadership, management, corporate culture, change management, and work – most of these set in the context of his own company. We were enthusiastic!

What gave us the most pause, however were three things – whereby the third point in particular caused us to reflect and discuss:

  1. There were no real reactions from the thousands of employees worldwide.
  2. Many employees told us that they did not read what he wrote.
  3. Why are such articles and posts written by the CEO and not by the Personnel Department? Or why, at least, is HR not visible behind the posts?

We kept returning to this last point. What kind of role does HR play at most companies and what kind of role should HR play? HR must redesign itself from scratch. Administration of personnel data is one part, personnel development is another, of course – both are very important, but still not enough. Especially given current changes with digitalization, changed ways of working, agile project management methods, and mobility, HR must regard itself as an organizational developer, as well as a consultant, mentor, and coach for work and leadership methods. HR must take on the role of a designer. This designing should make active changes in structures, communication, and ways of working. Such changes might include:

  • Transformation of the organization to flat hierarchies,
  • Deployment of community managers at the company to network with one another,
  • Complementing of workspaces with lounges, outdoor benches, and creative spaces,
  • Communication via internal social media about leadership, new work methods, change management, and trends,
  • Additional training and coaching about topics such as design thinking, agile project management, leadership of mobile teams.

It’s good to note that these are just our ideas and they could be delved into in more depth. What we want to make clear here is that we have reached a point where organizations and the ways in which they work have changed so drastically that HR must play its role as expert in the HUMAN area at the organization and incorporate itself proactively. These are such expansive topics that HR must now become involved proactively in the company’s organizational development and take on responsibility for this. A personnel management department must now transform itself into an organizational management department. Today’s personnel professionals should no longer fear employees and try to make everything right for everybody. No, they should appear with confidence and take changes in hand. And here the focus is not just on theories and concepts – no, here doers are called for!

Posts and blogs by the CEO like the ones mentioned above should in the future be made by the personnel management department, possibly together with the CEO.



By Ann-Katrin Hardenberg

Digital Transformation in Human Resources

Digital Transformation in Human Resources

A digital transformation doesn’t contain the use of digital technologies in the first step but the development of a strategy, which contains infrastructure, organization models and the quality of the management. In the meantime, the digital transformation should have arrived everywhere. Also in the HR (Human Resources) department, at least in the use of language and the expectations to this. One is covered with lecture invitations, seminar offers, newsletter and blog entries about the topic digitalization, primarily also in the area “learning & development”.

The HR managers surely heard about this topic and eventually they were also already invited to a presentation about this topic. But how far did they actually already engage with the topic? There is a new study about the topic digitalization, which was carried out by Bitkom and Kienbaum and says that the digitalization isn’t behind in the HR branch further than in other departments.

My experiences are differently. Unlike the study, unfortunately, within the last months, I could observe that digitalization and HR management are lived apparently very far away of each other. A HR management tool was only recently implemented in many enterprises but hardly included software for staff development, social media for employer branding and the recruiting of new staff, or even a strategy for employee further education based on a blended learning concept (combination of classroom training, mentoring, e-learning, videos as well as other digital studying media). But why?

On the one hand, in many cases this certainly is connected to the general company strategy, in which the digital transformation is not yet or just partly included. Primarily medium-sized enterprises often have difficulties in the area. On the other hand, it is however related to the HR managers themselves and the structure in the HR department of companies.

When looking at the background of HR managers one will state that most of them have made the classical education or studies in HR and additionally there are some psychologists. But there is almost nobody entering HR departments from a different educational background. The question one needs to ask now is why? Persons who have a sense for people were in demand in this area for years. People with empathy, coaching or psychology background were and are asked to provide their knowledge or experiences within this area. And this is completely right! But within all this years, it was forgotten that technical understanding and know-how is equally needed in this field of work. The todays HR departments not only need persons with a feeling for people but also persons with knowledge in marketing, IT or educational management.

Until today many HR departments are looking for new staff in a classic way. But is their communication actually focused on their target groups and appeals the communication channel to the right person so that they desire to work for this company? Here I would like to refer to the keyword “employer branding”. A job advertisement today is much more than it was 20 years ago and for that for example knowledge of marketing is needed in the HR department. Social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, Xing or LinkedIn must be target groups focused integrated – and this with a strategy. But then, why are so few HR managers active within social media, a medium to come directly into contact with people? Is this a fear of digital media or is it simply the feeling that they don’t know exactly what they shall or must do with it? And how can one take this fear away from them?

At the moment there are lots of topics concerning digital transformation coming up to HR managers and if they don’t hurry up to learn and alter their work, they are taken off soon. And this does not only include the introduction of digital media in work processes of the HR department but also the transformation of the company culture to today’s working world which has changed strongly by digitalization. This can contain, for example:

  • the introduction of new working time and place of work models, as, through the digitalization, employees need more liberty in the organization of their work;
  • playing a part in the development of new organizational structures towards flatter hierarchies;
  • the support at the change of management styles to an outcome-oriented style of management with more confidence towards the employee, less control and more right in helping to shape;
  • the management of “virtual” teams which must be led from distance as they work at different places around the world;
  • the introduction of digital tools for managing the well-directed and efficient development of employees;
  • the development and use of digital media for studying for employees in form of a knowledge database;
  • the introduction of an internal social media tool for the employees i.e. to exchange fast and uncomplicated specific questions concerning work content related topics.

The digital transformation makes work more exciting! It is an opportunity for every HR manager to get out of the corner of the employee administration and to become shapers of the enterprise and actual developers of the employees. I can just recommend to everyone in the HR branch: lose the shyness about digitalization and get active fast!

Author: Ann-Katrin Hardenberg

Dissolve the Personnel Department – Introduce Organizational Development!
Digital Transformation in Human Resources