How Six Sigma Impacts HR

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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.  Quite 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. 

a). 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 organizations human resource development. 

Some of the skill sets and competencies that get developed along with the implementation of Six Sigma are as below:  
  1. Builds Team Building Competency
  2. Creates a learning culture
  3. Develops Coaching and Mentoring skills
  4. Improves presentation and training skills
  5. Improves Project Management skills
  6. Encourages Statistical Thinking
  7. Opportunity to set challenging targets
  8. Creates cross functional awareness / competency building
  9. Motivation through awards and recognition
  10. An alternate career path
  11. Encourages sharing and learning between strategic business units
  12. Helps Retention of key people

Most of the points listed above are pretty 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.

b) Why should HR be involved in Six Sigma and Lean:  We first discussed how the organization benefits by improvements which are normally an outcome of HR initiatives.  Now let's look at the impact directly on the function itself. Broadly the impact this will have on HR personnel is as follows:
  1. Improves Analytical Thinking
  2. Understanding of Statistical Tools
  3. Inculcates  Process Thinking and Approach 
  4. Improves decision making, based on data and analysis

Problem solving, either IR related or any plays a major role in HR and bringing in a more scientific and system oriented approach would help to keep the decision unbiased and logical.  There is also a lot of scope for using statistical tools in solving HR issues and this skill set can be used in Strategic, Administrative and Operational HR Activities. This also helps improve the rapport and relationship of HR personnel with the operations team, first of all by speaking in the language of Six Sigma and Lean and also by working on specific projects enhances the knowledge of the product related processes.   

Some examples of projects a green belt or black belt from HR can work, with a focus of process improvement are as listed below:
  1. Recruitment and Induction Process
  2. Performance Management Process
  3. Knowledge Management
  4. Human Resource Information System
  5. Training and Development Process
  6. Compensation Disbursement and Reimbursement Process
  7. Employee related administrative transactional processes
  8. Competency Development Process
  9. Job Design and Analysis

The strengthening of statistical and analytical skill sets among the HR personnel further helps in making robust qualitative and quantitative measurements in the areas of :  

  1. Competency Measurement and Grading
  2.   Roles and Competency Patterns
  3.   Recruitment and Replacement Costs
  4.   Employee Satisfaction measurement
  5.   Compensation and Benefit Management
  6.   Attrition Patterns
  7. Business Cost Vs Employee Cost
  8. 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

To conclude I would say that Six Sigma is a powerful tool which every HR person should use to the maximum advantage 

pradeep-kumar-e.tPradeep Kumar E.T. A Master Black Belt in Six Sigma  & Lean and a Certified Executive Coach,  is the Chief Catalyst at Beyond Z Consulting LLP. Feedback can be e- mailed to pradeep@businessgyan.com