Typically when we talk of improvements and breakthrough in companies we always focus on Operations, and in the manufacturing sector it is the shop floor and related activities. Often it appears that organizations keep these initiatives away from functions such as Human Resource, Sales and Finance; with an assumption that these functions cannot be improved by the available tools in Quality Management, Six Sigma, Lean, Theory of Constraints etc. I think there is tremendous opportunity in application of process improvement tools and methodology in these areas; and let us discuss the application of operational excellence tools in human resources in this article.
Let us address two questions, viz., a) why should HR encourage Six Sigma & Lean in the organization and b) why should HR be involved in Six Sigma and Lean.
Why should HR encourage Six Sigma and Lean in the organization?
One of the key roles of HR is to manage talent and improve competency of the employees. I see the infusion of initiatives like Lean Sigma greatly complements this activity. Six Sigma is a project by project improvement methodology and the key activities it brings along with the deployment are training, formation of teams, selection of projects that have financial and quality impact and successful deployment of projects. So by bringing this culture in the organization it ushers in a host of skills sets that any HR person would love to see accomplished as part of the organization’s human resource development.
Some of the skill sets and competencies that get developed with the implementation of Six Sigma are as below:
- Builds Team Building Competency
- Creates a learning culture
- Develops Coaching and Mentoring skills
- Improves presentation and training skills
- Improves Project Management skills
- Encourages Statistical Thinking
- Opportunity to set challenging targets
- Creates cross functional awareness / competency building
- Motivation through awards and recognition
- An alternate career path
- Encourages sharing and learning between strategic business units
- Helps Retention of key people
Most of the points listed above are self-explanatory and in a culture of train the trainer cyclic pattern everybody in the organization can learn the technical skills and also training, mentoring and project management skills.
Why HR should be involved in Six Sigma and Lean?
Now let’s look at the impact directly on the HR function, and how HR personnel will benefit. Broadly the impacts this will have on HR personnel are as follows:
- Improves Analytical Thinking
- Understanding of Statistical Tools
- Inculcates Process Thinking and Approach
- Improves decision making, based on data and analysis
Problem solving, either IR related or otherwise, is important in HR and scientific and system oriented approach helps keep the decision unbiased and logical. There are ample opportunities for using statistical tools in solving HR issues and can be applied in Strategic, Administrative and Operational HR Activities. HR personnel can get a better understanding of technical processes by engaging on specific projects and will also get familiar with the technical and Lean Six Sigma terms. Speaking the language of the operations personnel build greater rapport with the team.
Some examples of projects a green belt or black belt from HR can work, with a focus on process improvement are as listed below:
- Recruitment and Induction Process
- Performance Management Process
- Knowledge Management
- Human Resource Information System
- Training and Development Process
- Compensation Disbursement and Reimbursement Process
- Employee related administrative transactional processes
- Competency Development Process
- Job Design and Analysis
Strengthening of statistical and analytical skill sets among the HR personnel further helps in making robust qualitative and quantitative measurements in the areas of :
- Competency Measurement and Grading
- Roles and Competency Patterns
- Recruitment and Replacement Costs
- Employee Satisfaction measurement
- Compensation and Benefit Management
- Attrition Patterns
- Business Cost Vs Employee Cost
- Analysis of Welfare Schemes
Overall I would say that Six Sigma belts are trained to make statistical and practical validation of results, but at the same time belts are cautious of non-sense relationships and findings. The belts are trained to make decisions in consultations with process experts and by obtaining appropriate sample sizes to ensure statistically valid results
In conclusion, Six Sigma is a powerful tool which every HR person should use to gain maximum advantage