Role of an HR Team in Defining the Team Structure in an Organization

Any organization is made up of many teams, groups and departments. The way a team is structured underlines the level of division of labor, delegation, policies and procedures and hierarchy of control and coordination. A well-defined team structure aims to achieve high productivity through empowerment of team members and managerial authority of the team leader. Organization development (OD) is one of the primary activities of the HR teams. Organization design and structuring is part of OD which leads to a planned and systematic alignment of human resources with the leadership, policies, strategies, processes, performance and compensation. The rise in importance of performance management in the recent decades have forced the top management to put more emphasis on OD. Today’s HR Tech Series primer evaluates the role of the HR teams in OD and how they play a key role in maximizing workforce performance through team structure designing and development.


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In this HR Tech Primer, we will define team structure, its relative importance to organizational structure, elements as part of the OD, types of structures, and how structuring process impacts OD, talent retention, managerial communication, technology adoption and global corporate reputation management.

Team Structure Within An Organization: An Introduction

A well-defined team structure is the hallmark of an extremely outcome-focused organization. Organized teams form an integral part of the system, defined through the work-based roles dispersed across horizontals and verticals. Roles and responsibilities, on the other hand, define the communication labyrinth while a good team structure can facilitate functional division of labor.

Leading Human Resource experts often emphasize on organizing a well-defined team based on human networks. These promote workplace leadership roles within a collaborative framework where team members often play a larger role in organizing their efforts towards agreed goals. However, a team structure is often diluted over larger roadmaps leading to ambiguity in job functions, delegation, control and communication. It is still a perplexing question for many HR leaders when it comes to answering this question:

“What kind of team structure is relevant for HR organizations in the modern context?”

There are different team structures that could be preferred within an organization. These could depend on the size of the organization, number of departments and span of the organization across regions. A lot has changed in this area due to the influence of startups who prefer to have a head-start in the market with lean structures with a flat or hybrid hierarchy. The team structures are designed accordingly. Therefore, whether, the organization prefers a flat team distribution, a traditional  or a hybrid  one, depends on so many factors.

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Is Team Structuring in an HR Organization Really Effective?

A pertinent question, raised by the audience, let’s delve into the intricacies of team frameworks within HR organizations. It is important to understand that, any HR based organization would prefer centralized team structure, as long as it builds efficiency and effectiveness of operation. Driving consistency of performance, centralized team structures create defined roles and responsibilities within the organization. However, certain HR focused organizations prefer to have hybrid team structures, wherein there’s a mix of manpower distribution in accordance to business roles, responsibilities as well as functions.

Types of Team Structures

Contextually putting, there are as many organization structures and team structures as there are companies in the world. Each organization makes an adjustment to their team structures with regard to their size, budget and span of control. Nonetheless, an HR manager would evaluate the following models of team structuring and designing as part of the larger OD goals. These structures or models are:

  • Hierarchical
  • Functional
  • Flat horizontal
  • Flat vertical
  • Matrix
  • Divisional/ Strategic Business units
  • Network

Many organizations also go with something that could be a mix of two or more models, which are referred to a ‘hybrid” team structure. These structures became very popular during the pandemic months with their sense of remote management and hybrid workplace cultures.

Team structures: What do they entail?

A team structure is understood to be a combination of a number of people, pursuing a common business goal. Particularly, within HR organizations, a typical team is oriented functionally, while being managed centrally through a collaborative network. But before we understand the intricacies, lets’ understand the functions that any HR organization hosts. As per experts, HR organizations would prefer, various functional teams based on the following:

  • Activities related to recruitment
  • A team imparting training and career development
  • A team fostering administration of compensation and benefits
  • Teams managing health and safety related issues in the workplace
  • Absolute focus groups working towards employee relations
  • Teams handling issues related to compliance

Going forward, HR philosophers recommend such teams should be defined through functional division of labor should be well knit together, while consistently performing on defined strategies to maximize profits. Most importantly, HR managers must enure that such teams need to be defined through a cross functional approach wherein communication remains to be the key driver to foster growth.

Can team structures be based on certain other indicators?

Yes, human resource experts agree that, similar arrangement is possible, provided it is a small managed enterprise working in a specialized HR function. For instance, if we consider the recruitment firms, very often, industry professionals refer to teams based on strategic markets being serviced. Taking the example of ABC Consultants’, a top-notch executive search firm in India and overseas reveal that teams are formed to serve niche markets. Given teams take into consideration various industry practices in order to render service excellence. Most of the time, specialized HR based organizations work on structural team models whatsoever. Research studies undertaken in the markets of the USA reveal that, people teams are often put in place keeping in view the strategic initiatives.

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Why are structural teams required in professional HR based organizations?

Structural teams within an organization generally serve broader business objectives. Promoting multitasking of human resources such teams serve as ‘working time models’, in order to drive organizational growth.

Can a closely knit peoples team guarantee better employee relation?

Most often yes. Team bonding improved, when the organization team structure is formed in accordance to desired business outcomes. A good team structure can improve the communication, within the team largely. Communication is the base of any human relation and thus, analysts’ acknowledge that a well defined team structure could help with reducing team conflicts as well as encourage better decision making.

Basis of team formation in the professional context

A major theoretical aspect related to team building, reveals that teams are put in place to define strategic goals driven through well-defined human efforts. Therefore, teams are exclusively required to handle larger corporate issues which are directly related to achieving desired business outcomes.

Before team formation we should ask  – “Can an employee union be also considered to be a team aligned with the goals of the business?”

As a matter of fact, employee unions can be understood to be strong teams taking care of employee interests on a larger scale. Therefore, goals of such team formation directly relate to employee satisfaction in addition to protecting the workers’ interests. Compliance to business norms is a major area on which teams should consciously work together to build up credibility. At the same time, teams are expected to resolve multifarious issues which could adversely affect productivity defined on a collective approach.

After going through various perspectives related to businesses, HR experts reveal that, team building criterion vary in accordance to broader organization outlooks, strength of brand existence in the given market, related business outcomes, contextual market dynamics and a lot more. However, for any HR focused organizations it is a simple model based on the human connection with a process orientation.

Let’s take a look at the team building focus that the HR organizations look for:

  • Certain organizations look forward to a process based strategic focus through building strategic partnerships
  • Certain HR organizations look forward towards bringing in a change management approach related to the strategic functions
  • Administrative teams are built upon the operational frameworks depending on the criterion of operation
  • People based teams are driven within organizations to create fruitful employee relations through engaging them meaningfully.

At the end of the day, each team is allowed to differentiate the services, while being accountable for high quality deliverables. Work based deliverables are incentivized through organized approaches to leverage intrinsic motivation. Continuing with the above, industry experts reveal that HR teams more or less resemble an internal consulting framework. Therefore, the team building approach inherently takes into consideration all necessary aspects of the business dimension.

Does size matter in understanding the team building approach within an HR organization?

Structuring the HR focused team requires evaluation of the mammoth, as industry professionals reveal that team distribution depends much on the bulk size of the organization. Contradictory to this, many of the reputed professionals feel that a well-knit team is understandably small, as it maintains cohesive communication coupled with an advance-planning work approach. In the recent decades, the concept of strategic teams have evolved wherein small teams are formed temporarily to harness specific business outcomes. These could be functional units or strategic units assigned to take care of urgent crisis or tasks. Strategic teams are however, made flexible wherein domain expertise or specialized skills and experience become primary factors of selection in the team designing process.

Do strategic teams in the HR perspective work on trust?

There are too many controversies related to the same. Strategic team building necessarily promotes trust from a short-term perspective. Nevertheless, it has been observed that trust building and enhancement of mutual trust remains to be a continuous process despite having conflicts regarding several issues. Mutual trust, on the other hand, have been observed amongst the employees if they were connected at some point within their career paths. In addition, managers who have been driving teams within larger organizations have revealed professional handling of team conflicts can enhance trust within teams as well. At the same time, each of the team members should be trained to hone their skills further, while a thought clarity should exist about the kind of expectations, that the organization has from each team member. Involving them with real life business simulations can be a better approach, while creating a team belongingness remains crucial for enhancing mutual trust.

In the modern context, what are some of the teams building approaches in HR focused organizations?

From research studies undertaken by the professional management consultancy firms like Deloitte and McKinsey, it is understood that structural team formation has been an integral part of team building in HR focused organizations. Taking a close look at the focus of team formations we understand that teams are formed as:

HR Shared Services is understood to be an exclusive team having discreet administrative and operational responsibilities. Such teams are necessarily characterized on ‘employee self service’, while technology intervention remains to be the key in driving performance. Automation on the other hand remains to be a major aspect, towards providing long term HR services, while business outcomes have been defined through efficiency of approach and effectiveness of performances being delivered within the organizational context.

The different tiers of team formation in an HR Shared Services is given as:

  • Payroll Management
  • Employee data management
  • Benefit and leave administration
  • Relocation services (international and domestic)
  • HRIS (HR Information Services)
  • Recruiting operations
  • Learning services
  • Reporting and analytics
  • HR service center

Thus, HR shared services remains to be a team associated with a multi-tiered HR service delivery model enabled through strategically profitable business initiatives.

Teams allocated to Centers of Excellence (COEs)

A Center of Excellence (CoE), is a discreet team while the focus of formation remains to be domain based expertise. However, CoEs should not be confused with Communities of Practice (CoPs), based roles whatsoever. At the same time, it is important to note that, CoEs are dedicated exclusively towards addressing a knowledge gap within the organization to improvise human efforts. In such teams, strategic alignment of functions remains to be a major focus area to define profits in the long run.

Source: What is a Center of Excellence? by Bizagi
Source: What is a Center of Excellence? by Bizagi

Teams comprising HR Business Partners (HRBPs)

Strategic Role of HRBP: A Snapshot
Source: AIHR

The definition of a HR business partner revolves around a certain carefully planned agenda related to profitable initiatives within the organization. HR business partners, on the other hand, can be a focused group happening to work closely on certain business focus areas to improve productivity. This kind of a business model is intricately treated as a team although external to the organization, as such teams could actively participate in business decision making.


Any particular business organization requires structural teams to be put in place. Team building is a conscious approach to assign manpower functions, intricately and evenly distributed to enable complete participation of individuals based on the inherent expertise possessed. On the other hand, HR focused organizations promote functional teams to achieve well defined business outcomes. Structural team models however, are different when compared to functional teams. Given the theoretical approach, it is better to consider that every functional team is a structured team, while all structural teams are not exactly functional ones. HR managers should focus on building multi-functional teams within the organization to fulfill strategic business goals and stay prepared for the uncertain future. At the end of the day, such teams drive value-creation with a redesigned approach to brand building through continuous innovation in digital transformation journeys.

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