What Makes HR Different in Mid-Sized Companies?

In the modern era of work, companies of all sizes are rapidly transforming. Logically, so are the various functions within them, HR included.

A combination of macroeconomic trends—like globalization, developments in cloud and mobile technology, and generational shifts in the workforce—are challenging some of the long-held status quo assumptions we have about the nature of work and our workforce.


The Impact on HR

Perhaps one of the most dramatic transformations I’ve noticed is the role of HR in mid-sized companies, which I consider to have between 300 and 5,000 employees.

While modern trends are challenging many of the assumptions we’ve made about work, one assumption about mid-sized companies is still a good one: they are nimbler and move faster than enterprise organizations.

When it comes to HR, HR leaders at mid-sized companies are not only closer to execution, in many cases the leaders executing people strategies are the department heads outside of HR. They are executing people strategies and programs alongside crucial business strategy. In other words, they are driving a view of HR strategy that is in line with overall company needs.

Meanwhile at enterprise employers (those with more than 5,000 employees), you see the creation of full People Operations departments. These teams are heads-down in the technical needs and processes of various “lines of business” or departments. In contrast, mid-sized employers are building People Operations teams that are in “the business of getting work done,” as I like to call it. Little in a mid-sized business is approved in any function if a tie to business results doesn’t exist. HR is no different. At mid-sized companies, HR must be strategic and yield clear results.


What’s Driving This Shift?

This view of HR—as a function of business execution—is a shift a long time in the making. It’s a shift that has been enabled by the macroeconomic trends I mentioned before. Everything espoused by business books through the 90s started to come true at a breakneck pace in the early 2000s: The world became flatter. Small businesses started hiring remote workers around the world and competing with larger brands for global talent. Digital natives became the largest demographic in the workplace, their technical sophistication and expectations increasing exponentially. And, technology itself started evolving more rapidly, both creating and supporting these expectations. What we used to see as 10-year technology adoption cycles now seem to be compressed to months or weeks.

HR as the business of getting work is more than a promise or a possibility. It has arrived, and nowhere do I see it happening more than in middle sized employers.

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