Thursday 17 February 2011

TRU London: Why does 95% of what we do in HR focus on individuals (when what’s most important is teams)?


  I had a good session at the end of the TRU London Masterclasses yesterday (based on the fact most participants suggested at the end of the session that they agreed Social HR is a, if not the, major new challenge for HR.

You can review some of the points I discussed in yesterday’s post.

Today, I’m leading a linked track on HR and Teams during the main unconference.  And this supports a key message from my session yesterday, and one of my points which generated most controversy:

“If the point of performance in most organisations is the team, why is it that 95% of what we do in HR focuses on the individual?”


I was challenged on this statement, but I still think it’s correct.  Certainly the point of performance piece is true.

Organisations succeed or fail because of the way individuals work with each other, particularly in teams and also increasingly in networks and communities – NOT because of the way any particular individual, or the sum of all these individuals, perform.

And there’s very little relationships between the absolute quality of individuals who are assembled to be part of a team and the performance of a team that results.  I talked about England’s performance last year but the best sports example is Real Madrid in the Galacticos era.  And I think we can all think of business teams that have suffered the same fate.

And we do tend to focus on individuals in HR.  We treat each person as an individual human resource and we don’t think of how these resources work together as a collective:

  • We measure and attempt to manage the performance of individuals
  • We reward people in the main for their own individual performance
  • We attempt to develop the capabilities of individuals, not those of whole teams (eg their shared mental models, shared understandings etc).


Why?  Well for one thing, managing Team Resources is a lot more challenging than managing the individual HR.  We just about understand how to influence individual performance (although there’s still a big disconnect between the way we manage and reward people and what really turns people on – as per Dan Pink and others).  But the truth is we don’t really know what makes teams succeed or fail.  So it’s either not thought about, or it’s parked in the ‘too difficult’ box.

But if it’s as important I suggest, surely doing this can’t be the right response?

This is what I’ll be talking about today.


Also see my other posts on TRU.



  • Consulting - Research - Speaking  - Training -  Writing
  • Strategy  -  Talent  -  Engagement  -  Change and OD
  • Contact  me to  create more  value for  your business
  • jon  [dot] ingham [at] strategic [dash] hcm [dot] com



Post a Comment

Please add your comment here (email me your comments if you have trouble and I will put them up for you)