Friday, 30 November 2012

OD and HR: What's The Big Difference?

There is a question floating around that is being asked frequently: what are the roles and differences between human resources and organizational development? The line seems to have blurred for some.  The blurring of the line has made the issue more and more unclear as to the differences between them.

There seems to be no clear-cut answer.  Recently at a Toronto OD Network session the issue was tackled.  Similarly a few year back the topic was the focus of a learning team I facilitated at a Linkage OD Summit.   Simply put what are the differences between the role for OD and HR? It is my hope that readers of the blog will weigh in on the topic.

I believe that the line is blurred because many HR professionals have engaged in OD activities. As a result there has been a de facto  blending of OD work with the activities of the HR generalist.  To add fuel to the fire some HR specialists, especially in the area of performance management and learning, have also taken on the activities of organizational development.  The result has been role conflict or ambiguity between those who are OD professionals and their HR counterparts.

I have waded into the discussion here with some my thought on what is OD and how it is different than HR.

OD is first a data-driven process; diagnosis and intervention are based on some form of behaviourally relevant data (such as observations, assessments, and surveys) collected through a process known action research.

Second, the OD model representation a total systems approach, to organizational change in which this change is a formal and planned response to targeted organizational issues, problems, and challenges.
OD work should be focused on and conducted for the good of the individual as well as the good of the organization within the context of what the organization defines as good. OD work should not prioritize effectiveness and profitability over the needs of the individual within the organization or the organization as a whole.

OD is NOT specifically about change management but about the improvement of the organization through the use of social science theory, action research and behaviourally based data collection and feedback.

The Different Functions Between HR and OD

Organizational Development
§ Improve the effectiveness of the organization within the values and culture of the organization
§  Maximize the potential of human beings and their contributions to the organization
§ Align strategy, structure, business processes, and behavior into an effective corporate culture
§  Model and foster the organization’s values into the workplace

Human Resources
§  Manage employee attraction, retention, development, and performance management 
§ Develop and manage programs for employee relations, staff wellbeing, workforce planning, and workload management
§  Ensure equity and diversity
§  Reduce labor costs
§  Avoid litigation
§  Enforce corporate policies

As always, your thoughts are appreciated …