Why HR and OD Don't Get Along

Why HR and OD Don't Get Along

There is an article in the current issue of Fast Company magazine, Called "Why We Hate HR," that is getting a lot of discussion at places like ODNET and HRNET. I have even weighed in a bit at those two discussions.

In this blog entry, however, I am going to look at a different angle, the relationship between HR and OD.

HR and OD are related functions in many organizations, where both are concerned about critical people processes. Sometimes they get along fine; but at other times, they eye each other with suspicion. Why is it that HR and OD don't get along sometimes?

Although quite often they have a common reporting structure (e.g. to the VP of HR), they often have different areas of focus. HR tends to focus on short-term tactical people processes such as recruiting, benefits, salary structure, policy, pay, and performance reviews. OD tends to focus on longer-term strategic people processes such as training, development, leadership, succession, mission, vision, and values.

HR's purpose leans toward organizational maintenance, while OD's leans toward organizational performance and renewal.

In the best of situations, the two functions find areas of commonality, where working together, collaboration, and creativity can surface and be applied to needs of the business.

Sometimes, however, there can be trouble. Because practical HR is more here-and-now, and visionary OD is more there-and-then, there can be misconceptions and misunderstandings. HR can view OD as fuzzy and "in the air." OD can view HR as unimaginative and plodding.

There can also be turf issues if one group strays into an area that the other group feels it owns. For example, performance management. OD stakes a claim because of the link to organizational performance and competencies, while HR stakes a claim because of the link to merit and bonus pay.

Like a married couple, each brings its own personality to the relationship. Hopefully the union will last. May it be a long and fruitful one! As long as each party can adapt to the needs of the other, appreciate the other's gifts, and adjust to the differences of the other, HR and OD should have a nice long run.

Note: See the 2010 update of this entry here.


regina said…
somewhere in this conversation all over the blogosphere I said I would go dark and I can't and I therefore said that HR people don't think like OD people and therein lies the issue. HR people need more systemic views, etc..as you say...(but I am advocating a blended skill set because either side won't survive alone.
Terrence said…
Hey Regina, I was hoping you would weigh in on this.

I agree with you. HR folk need to think more like OD folk and vice versa. The more each group can see and appreciate the other group's worldview, the better.

In my experience, there can be great collaboration between OD and HR. What it takes is a professional relationship and trust.


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