How to Design Your Organization’s HR Business Processes

How to Design Your Organization’s HR Business Processes


Designing your company’s HR business processes will allow you to make a distinction between the activities that are assigned to the Human Resources Department (organizational mission and role definition) or, conversely, to the management. It also allows acquiring a global vision of the different steps followed by employees during their entire lifecycle in the company, as well as clarifying theorganizational culture in relation to HR management. Both in the literature and in practice, two main trends may be identified:

  • The HR Department as a provider of avisory and services: It is the most up-to-date and demanding version of the HR Department. It consists in advising and supporting managers in their relations with their staff (e.g. advising them on staff recruitment/selection and development strategies, negotiating terms and conditions of employment, etc.) . In such cases, Chief HR Officers act as “business partners” for the company’s management. They contribute to designing both the company’s strategy and business plans.
  • The HR Department as a “logistical supermarket” for managers: The HR Department takes orders from managers and carries them out. It does not take part in the writing of job profiles, does not intervene in the assessment of candidates during the recruitment process, and it does not provide advice on staff development issues. In other words, it serves as a back-office for the company’s management, managing and updating the HR information system data.

In the first case, the HR Department serves as a vehicle of the company’s organizational culture. It is not rare that it is endowed with a veto right against decisions of the management that could stand in contradiction with the organizational culture.

The second version can mainly be found in large companies that are highly centralized or organized along lines of products – as well as in very small structures in which the boss rules with unlimited power.

 The design of the company’s HR business processes is mainly supported by the two following tools:
  1. The list of the company’s HR management activities: The aim of this listing is to get an overview of all Human Resources-related processes in the company. This step is a prerequisite to the assignment of the responsibilities to the different organizational players.
  2. The responsibility assignment matrix for HR Management activities: The aim of this table is to assign all HR Management activities to the different organizational players; its contents will reflect the importance given to the HR Department.
 1. Inventory of HR activities: The first step in the design of the company’s Human Resources processes consists in listing up all the activities that you consider to be part of your company’s HR management, without bothering about their assignment yet. Once all these tasks have been listed up, you can group them into a “catalogue of HR activities”.

To do so, you can base your analysis on the following sample list of the HR activities of a multinational company’s “Logistics” DivisionAlthough it is based on a multinational structure, this example may very easily be adapted to the duties of an SME’s Chief HR Officer.

2. Design of the organization’s complete employment lifecycle:  It can then prove useful to draw the full HR lifecycle of your company. The latter can – and even should – be based on the steps followed by employees during their employment lifecycle (illustration), from their first contact with the recruiter to their departure (via the hiring, development, training and promotion phases). These steps are always influenced by the company’s strategic orientations. The annexed document aims to help you adapt standard HR business processes to the reality of your organization.

3. Responsibility assignment of all HR activities: Whatever the importance attributed to the HR Department, it will then prove essential to clarify the roles assigned to the different actors who take part in the HR life cycle. Drawing theresponsibility assignment matrix (sample) for all HR-related activities can prove most helpful when it comes to designing your company’s HR processes.

Please note that the assignment of these responsibilities will have to be adapted to each company’s organizational culture. Thus, although the employer branding strategy (guidelines) may generally be very similar during the recruitment phase, companies tend to use differentiation strategies in the areas of staff management and development.

4. Implementation of HR business processes: Once all HR activities have been listed up and assigned, you can move to the project’s implementation phase. Based on the responsibility assignment matrix and your company’s business process architecture, you can now draw your HR Department’s organizational chart and adapt thecorresponding job descriptions (guidelines). The ultimate materialization of the HR strategy will take the form of the employee handbook.

By simply reading the organizational chart, an external observer should be able to assess the importance given to HR management in your company. Thus, an HR Department that is directly subordinated to the highest hierarchical level (CEO) hints at the fact that staff management is a priority for the organization. The other extreme consists in having no HR Department at all…


An examination of how the responsibility of your organization’s HR processes is shared between the company’s management and the HR Department thus allows getting a feeling of the organizational culture.

  • An organizational culture characterized by the willingness to maximize the commitment of employees will organize its HR Department so as to turn the direct superior into a coach. This means that the HR Department will act as a “facilitator” for the company’s management.
  • In the contrary, a company that is strictly oriented towards return on investment will tend to discharge its managers from roles of advisory or support and will rather seek to achieve a total customer-orientation. In this case, the HR Department will be assuming a leading role in staff management and development. Although this configuration may look flattering for the HR Department in terms of power, it will result in a complete loss of managerial responsibility. Managers may indeed completely give up any participation to the development of their staff’s competencies.