Human Resources has become overly-reliant on the notion of "best practice" to solve business problems. But the highest performing companies go beyond this to find "best fit" solutions.
What’s the Problem with Best Practice?
How we choose business services is similar to how consumers now shop. As consumers, we might read a bunch of Amazon customer reviews. For businesses, it’s seeing what other companies use and trying to replicate it.
This approach overlooks the need for context — whether a particular solution (or product) matches our own unique needs and expectations. While sharing best practices has its merits, we shouldn't rely on them solely.
Best fit means getting HR processes and solutions that are designed to meet specific business needs — they take the context and culture of each organization into account. The results will be more relevant, readily accepted (by managers, employees), will fit seamlessly into your business and, most importantly, are more successful than best practice alternatives.
Lynda Gratton of the London Business School says that devising "signature processes" that are unique to individual organizations, is the secret to sustainable competitive advantage.
Every organization has elements of its people culture, processes and ways of working which, if understood and developed, can help the business to become more successful.
Getting Started with Best Fit Solutions
To establish best fit solutions to people challenges you’re facing, you must strike a balance between:
- The business objectives and HR goals
- Best practice advice
- Company culture and processes.
This process could help you create solutions to business challenges like cutting hiring costs by promoting more talent from within to improving customer service by increasing employee engagement.
1. Business and HR goals
- Be clear on the business’s key objectives for this year and ask yourself what the role of HR is in delivering these
- Identify business-relevant, easily measurable metrics that will show how HR contributed towards key objectives.
2. Best practice advice
- Review best practices relevant to the particular business or HR objective you have including in areas such as technology, change management and communication
- Evaluate the views of experts, being careful to identify any commercial interests
- Reach out to your network and speak with peers about how they’ve tackled similar business challenges.
3. Company culture and processes
- Review existing processes, noting what works well and what doesn’t
- Identify the defining features of your organizational culture — people, systems, tone of language, brand, use of technology — these are likely to be things you should seek to reflect in your solution
- Understand the reasons why previous initiatives succeeded or failed in your company so that you can boost any "enablers" and neutralize the barriers
- Identify your organization’s signature elements that could help deliver a sustainable competitive advantage.
Following this framework will result in HR processes and solutions that are more likely to achieve their business objectives.
The idea that best practice is risk-free and a useful short-cut when implementing our business plans is a myth. Better results come from a best fit approach so why do we still pursue best practice?
About the Author
Ben Egan is a consultant specialising in communications strategies at UK-based HR consultancy and bespoke technology firm ETS.
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