Human Resources Internal Services Assessment

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.



A business owner from Delaware called me the other day to discuss various organizational issues including ongoing expansion replete with conjoined staffing demands, leadership team reconfiguration, and forging more accountability toward business results while strengthening the company culture to promote increased employee engagement.  Big picture considerations from a big picture thinker!

In my professional experience, I have found that ideations related to strategic planning are cause for simultaneous excitement and reflection, balancing aspiration against apprehension, circumscribed by hope and reality.  To be clear:  Human resources is the integrated foundation upon which all strategic planning resides, relying on insightful executive-level decision-making, high-caliber employees, and accountability mechanisms to ensure optimal performance.  If you can build a successful strategic plan without those human resources pillars, please call me with your magic formula.

The substantive discussion with the adroitly-ambitious business owner stimulated my fundamentalist predisposition.   Accordingly, I suggested pretext prior to planning.  Before commencing any large-scale change management initiative, I recommended that he conduct an internal service assessment of his company’s Human Resources Department to determine its functional readiness.  As a capitalist, I always want to be prudently confident in the fundamentals of any decision, equation, or plan before taking action, especially when it comes to the multidimensional, fragmented, and convoluted world of human resources.

My proposal to the business owner was three-fold:

  • Identify 15-20 human resources functions. Topics like:  recruitment, staffing, compensation, training, compliance, performance management, benefits, culture, succession planning, safety, workers compensation, change management, management development, employee engagement, personal accountability, coaching, employee relations, record keeping, communication, and the HRIS.
  • Have every management team member evaluate each of those functions from 1-10 on two criteria:
    1. Importance: How important is this human resources function to your departmental (or company) success?
    2. Effectiveness: How effective is the Human Resources Department in performing this human resources function?
  • Rank order the results in two ways. First, list the human resources functions from high to low in terms of their Importance ratings.  Second, list the human resources functions according to the biggest gaps between the Importance ratings and their corresponding Effectiveness ratings.

With those results in place, an owner should direct the management team to spend at least four hours generating the priorities and action plans for improvement of each human resources function in need of remedy.  If you think four hours is too much time, then don’t do this exercise at all.  If you’re going to mistakenly view this fundamental process as merely an obligatory administrative task that simply must be completed, DON’T DO IT.  You will be wasting your time, your leadership capital, and your personal integrity; DON’T DO IT.  Just go back into your office, look into the computer monitor, and ponder why the company is under-performing relative to annual business goals, your vision, and the local competition.

Next, my facilitation experience has shown the Start-Stop-Keep framework is invaluable at defining specific behaviors, initiatives, and methods, for each problematic human resources function, necessary to chart progress; progress instrumental to a more effective Human Resources Department which represents the sine qua non for all future organizational growth, improvement, and success.  With the Start-Start-Keep action plans in place, the follow-up meetings essential to driving accountability must then be arranged.

Obviously, I recommend this same annual process for every key company department.

But only do it if you are serious about the human resources pillars of your company’s strategic plan.  If not, DON’T DO IT.  Just make sure you call me with your magic formula.  I’ll wait.  But will the calendar?

If you have any questions or comments about this topic or anything else related to human resources, Sign Up for Steve’s HR Helpdesk!


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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.