Matrix Management

Matrix management in the human resources (HR) function

Many human resources (HR) functions within large complex organizations are already operating an internal matrix management setup of business partners, specialists and common service centres.

A common way of doing this is to use the ‘Ulrich model’, developed by David Ulrich, a Professor from the University of Michigan, Ross School of Business.

In this model human resources is organized into:

  • HR Business partners to act as a working with specific areas of the business and being the point of contact for accessing other HR services and specialisms.
  • HR specialists – individuals and departments within the human resources function that specialize in areas such as training development, organization development, compensation benefits etc. and provide services to the business when called upon by the business partners.
  • Service centres , which handle the transactional activities and routine questions such as employee questions on benefits, holidays etc…

The business partners are effectively account managers, who manage the relationship between the particular part of the business they are dedicated to and the specialist functions.

This approach effectively creates an internal matrix management setup within the HR function, enabling external users to have a single point of contact, and using the business partners to manage the internal complexities of HR.

This internal matrix preserves functional specialization and simplifies the interface to the outside organization to business partners or account managers.

However, this does mean that individuals working within the matrix structure, particularly the business partners, have to master the skills of matrix management and matrix working in order to be successful in navigating the internal complexities of the function and in providing a good quality of service to the rest of the business

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