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Defining the Role of Human Resources in a Continuous Improvement Setting

June 14, 2016

Finding process improvements and increasing efficiency is on the radar of many organizations, and implementing Six Sigma techniques is a common approach. Although much has been written about the technical side of Six Sigma practices, HR practitioners may wonder what role they have to play in introducing aspects of Six Sigma into their workplace, implementing those practices, and ensuring that the human resources function is aligned with the organization’s evolving continuous improvement goals.

Before we dive into what HR can do, let’s take a look at what Six Sigma involves. Six Sigma is a philosophy that aims to produce stable and predictable results through continuous attention to processes, and uses quantitative measurement and statistical analysis as its key tools. Many organizations and educational institutions offer third-party Six Sigma training, certification, and consulting advice which can help your organization develop the people skills and infrastructure necessary to implement a Six Sigma system. The International Association for Six Sigma Certification is the largest independent certification body offering Six Sigma standards testing and organizational accreditation.

So what role does HR play in transitioning to a Six Sigma setting? HR can take responsibility for organizational culture, one of the key aspects of Six Sigma. Succeeding in a Six Sigma setting requires the buy-in of employees at all levels. Ensuring that your organization has clearly defined its mission, vision, and values—and that those statements are effectively communicated across your organization—is essential. Monitoring your organization’s daily commitment to goals and objectives is also vital.

Human resources can also be heavily involved in any organizational restructuring required when implementing a Six Sigma system. Each employee, supervisor, and manager must have a well-defined role that contributes to the larger picture. Updating job descriptions, maintaining organizational charts, and providing advice and support to upper management on reorganizing teams, departments, and divisions to support Six Sigma objectives are within HR’s scope of responsibility.

Health and safety is one area that can benefit immensely from a Six Sigma approach, and HR has a role to play here, too. Every organization’s goal should be to reduce the incidence of workplace injuries, and HR bears responsibility for this. Implementing  and enforcing a Health and Safety Continuous Improvement Plan and tracking safety metrics (such as injuries, near misses, compliance rates, and health and safety training progress) are measures HR can own.

By participating in the process of implementing a Six Sigma system in the workplace, HR can strengthen its role as a strategic business partner that contributes measurable value to the organization. HR should be involved at every step in the process, and can offer valuable insight on the “people side” of the continuous improvement equation.

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 “Improving the Process Improves the People – HR Power in a Six Sigma Setting”

 “International Association for Six Sigma Certification”http://www.iassc.org/

 “What is Six Sigma?”http://www.isixsigma.com/new-to-six-sigma/getting-started/what-six-sigma/

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