· 1 min read · Features

Why HR needs its own SEAL Team Six


Most of us have heard of highly trained special forces troops that operate outside ‘normal‘ military channels. They are used for quick response and solutions. With CEOs becoming ever more demanding, it is now time for HR to create its own SEAL Team Six.

The HR structure in most companies has barely changed in the last 20 years. In fact many organisations already had the ‘Ulrich’ model before it was even branded as such. 

Yet the external business environment, technology and employee demographics have changed radically in that time. In many ways the external world is at version 5.0 but HR is still at version 1.5! 

The principal reason for this is that HR is still organised around functions (reward, talent, etc.) and inputs (compensation, L&D, recruitment). However, businesses require integrated, multi-disciplined solutions. Retention and engagement, for example, arise from a multi-disciplined approach and cannot be solved by looking at isolated aspects. In short, HR is not organised to provide integrated solutions.

To close the gap between business world version 5.0 and HR version 1.5, we need to create highly trained, multi-discplined project (SWAT) teams whose members understand the interplay between different HR functions. They will also have knowledge of IT systems, financial processes, data analytics and customer satisfaction. They will not take six to nine months to analyse, study and recommend changes. Instead these teams will go in, fix the problem, and implement a new solution in less than 30 days. 

As with a traditional army, we need HR specialists. However, we should also start training and utilising our best and brightest as a solution-driven rapid response team. A major part of our workload is project-based, so we need to lift projects outside of the ‘business as usual’ model and create a centre of excellence for HR projects and solutions. Until we reorganise around output (solutions) and not input (functions), the gap between speed of change in business and that of HR may increase even further. 

This new approach requires not only a new structure but also a radically new way of training HR professionals. Indeed, it may redefine what a HR professional 'looks like’, something that has not happened in more than 20 years. Therefore HR SEAL Team Six is looking for a few good people who are 'ready to lead, ready to follow and who never quit'.

Frank Douglas is CEO of Caerus Executive, which helps develop senior executives around the world