Among the many stereotypes that HR is trying to beat, one of them is about the responsibility of capacity building. No matter how much we try to pass the buck to each other in the organization, the realization is that we can pass the buck only because it is everyone’s responsibility. The reason why it may often land (and remain) in HR’s court is because it can be effectively facilitated by HR.
Capacity building has been traditionally used to mean the act of expanding the organization or changing its direction. These activities might be at the organizational level, the level of managers and at the individual level.
At the organizational level
As our understanding of our people managers increase, we are coming face to face with the fact that almost all HR strategies and implementations have a consistent partner - the people manager. Here, HR would become a significant researcher, analyzer and designer, handing over to the people manager, the responsibility of implementing the final design, customized to each person’s need and current capacity.
As functions become more specialized, and HR is recognized more and more as a strategic thought partner, the aim is to free up bandwith the focus on the latter. Reducing executional time where another stakeholder is more effective is a key to building HR’s own capacity.
Building capacity at the managerial level
A good question to ask here is whether managers are at the right place to handle this crucial task of building capacity. If not, probably a quick study on where they are at this point in time versus where you need them to be might be a good starting point. As your organization grows, the lever to accelerate capacity lies in the people who manage people.
Study whether there is a similar level across the band. The capacities needing to be built, as well as the capacity to build capacity in others, must increase. HR’s role here would be to make the developer mindset an ingrained one. Another crucial task is to identify what it takes to be an effective manager who builds capacity in people and then drive that among the people.
It is also essential here to let managers know how autonomous they should be. Reduce the tendency to ask questions that they so far feel are HR’s responsibility to answer. For example, ‘Can you solve this question that my team member has about his leaves?’ While this may seem simple to you as an HR professional because you form and revise these policies, build capacity and credibility in your managers to answer the simple questions before they approach you. HR is not brushing off responsibility. HR’s responsibility began with creating a system of leaves and its implementation, ensuring that mangers are able to take care of their people. The manager’s responsibility lies in helping the team member make best use of it. HR’s responsibility again begins with understanding how it is working, addressing significant/sensitive issues that do not lie in the purview of the manager to address, and modifying the existing system to support the manager and the team member in the best way.
The individual capacity builder
While I see HR’s role as a very macro one here, that does not mean that HR does not have a crucial role to play. Is your organizational culture demanding every individual to live up to certain expectations of learning and growing? If not, HR has a long way to go when it comes to building a culture of drive, autonomy and continuous learning.
Create systems that managers can use to show individuals where and how they need to build capacity. How do they upskill themselves and how much more can they do to build their own capacity? Show them a road map on where they could be a few years down the line and help them understand what they need to do in terms of capacity building now to get there in a few years. Again, HR and people managers have a partnership that is undeniable.