What Would It Take for HR to Be a Role Model for Culture Alignment in Your Agency?
Undoubtedly, you have heard the expression “HR is a critical strategic partner to the success of a Federal organization.” Yet, in reality, you find many HR policies and practices create barriers and cause extra work for Federal managers and employees each and every day. A recent example is the inability of agencies looking to hire an individual that another agency has already assessed without “starting from scratch.” This situation could change if the House bill sent to President Obama is approved. But in the end, it still may not reduce any workload for managers without a formal and structured process to share assessments between agencies.
To be that critical strategic partner in any Federal agency, the HR function must be designed to work together with other functions smoothly and efficiently so that when a change is introduced, steps can be taken to achieve the desired organizational alignment in an outcome-focused way. This means, at its core, the HR function is designed with the agencies’ culture and goals in mind.
It is also the culture and goals-driven design that can lead to the HR function becoming a role model for culture alignment in an agency. As you read on, you will learn more about the focus HR will need to become this role model. Seven essential steps are described that HR can take to start on the path to becoming a role model for culture alignment at the agency level.
Step 1. Starting with a clear understanding of the mission and vision of their agency, HR professionals should know the strategic goals of the agency and more specifically, the objectives and activities of the HR function, all the way down to the individual level. It does not stop there for HR professionals – this need for knowledge around objectives and activities extends to all parts of the organization to be the essential strategic resource for the agency.
Step 2. Creating culture alignment begins with building a strong foundational understanding of culture. This means giving time to learn the fundamentals of culture, how cultures are created through shared learning and mutual experience, and learning the “what” and “how” to align human performance across the HR function.
Culture alignment often gets overlooked and consequently getting work done feels hard, particularly if it is something new or different. And when you run into your culture every day, it wears you down rather than encourages you. Why is that? The collective values that guide people to carry out the mission and vision, the collective practices that reflect those values, and collective behaviors exhibited by its people are often out of alignment. For example, HR functions where managers set objectives without input of those responsible for accomplishing them are not as effective in promoting constructive norms as HR functions that give priority to managers and employees jointly setting clear, specific and challenging, yet realistic objectives.
Step 3. Ensure everyone that is part of the HR function is clear on its agency espoused values and their focus with respect to customers. This could mean you will need to give some time to reaching a collective understanding of your values, and what each value specifically means in terms of expected behaviors.
Step 4. Identify the behaviors that are being encouraged and reinforced by individuals who are currently part of the HR function and that guide how they approach their work and interact with each other. Think of these as the current behaviors that form the everyday operating culture.
Step 5. Create a profile or picture that can serve as a benchmark for the HR function that describes the ways in which HR employees should interact with one another and approach their work.
Step 6. Capture the outcomes being achieved in your current operating culture at the individual, team, and organizational level to get a handle on the effectiveness of your HR function.
Step 7. Begin to understand the forces and conditions across the HR function that are helping or hindering performance. It is useful to group the forces and conditions into general categories that can become your levers for change as you begin looking at what you want to be different. An effective grouping is:
- Mission and philosophy
- Job design
When the forces and conditions are not aligned with the organizational values, disconnects in getting work done are experienced across the HR function.
You are probably feeling like the seven steps will be a big effort and will take too much time before any meaningful results will be seen. The intent of this blog is to spark a new way of thinking about how your HR function can become the critical strategic partner your agency needs while setting an example of culture alignment for other functions in your agency to consider.
If you are interested in learning more details about a time-tested approach to creating culture alignment, keep a lookout for an upcoming blog series that will put you on a new path with focus on your highest priorities.