Assessing the Human Resources Maturity:
tool and framework

by Mateusz Graboń

20 July 2018

The development of a function in the organisation can be seen as evolution driven by both the organisational and the environmental changes. As in every evolution, we can divide the process into distinctive stages which the development of the function must go through, with each successive stage being a step towards a more organised, systemic and aligned part of the organisation, allowing the assessment of HR maturity.

This perspective on the evolution of the HR function allows us to assess the HR maturity level and identify its stage of development.

We developed a criteria tool and an analysis framework based on the academic models of organisational and historical HR evolutions (refer to the bibliography), without any influences from commercial models, to satisfy our goal of exclusive academic underpinning.

Having summarised and compared the HR evolutionary models, we identified common denominators that allowed us to systematise them into one which transpired to be equivalent to the Ulrich et al.’s (2012) model:

HR evolution by Ulrich et al. 2012

In order to assess the HR function against the maturity stages (waves in Ulrich et al. (2012)), and their characteristics described in the other HR evolutionary models, we divided the HR function into areas that we were particularly interested to measure for our client. It led us to creating the below HR maturity matrix:

HR maturity analysis framework

Notwithstanding having the framework developed, we were not satisfied with the description of the HR areas which were too generic compared to the in-depth description of the stages of the HR evolution. Therefore, we developed several criteria for each of the HR areas which allowed us to get a deeper insight into what we wanted to measure and systematise our approach to the research. As an example, for the area of People Resourcing we used such criteria as Workforce Planning, Recruitment, Selection, Talent Management, Employee Value Proposition, Employer Brand, Employee Turnover, and Strategic Resourcing; for the area of Employee Relations we used Employee, Voice, Communication, The Psychological Contract, The Employment Relationship, Industrial Relations, Employee Well-being, and Strategic Employee Relations.

During the research, every criterion was assigned with one of the four types of results:

  • 0 = unsupported organisation focus / no HR support / no function awareness / no implementation;
  • 1 = non-contributory HR role / insufficient HR support / some awareness / planned or initial stages of implementation;
  • 2 = not fully-contributory HR role / partly sufficient HR support / good awareness / partly implemented;
  • 3 = fully-contributory HR role / fully effective and integrated HR support / full awareness / fully implemented or integrated.

An example:

HR criteria tool

Finally, the HR Maturity matrix was populated with the average results.

The presented criteria tool and analysis framework enable assessing of the HR function on three levels simultaneously i.e. that of the HR function in general, separate HR areas, and separate HR activities (criteria). The advantages are numerous:

It presents the extent to which the HR function adds value to the organisation. Not only does the maturity stage of the HR function show if it is under-developed (e.g. being on the HR Practices stage whereas the potential is in being on the Strategic HR stage) but also shows the potential that the function can reach (e.g. the HR Outside in stage). It will be easy to recognise which areas of HR are under-developed or neglected and need to be focused and worked on. It will also be clear what the current focus of HR activities are as the area or areas should reach a higher maturity stage than others.

The stage of development of the areas can be used to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the HR function, which is a prerequisite for planning improvement.
Furthermore, difference between maturity levels of the HR areas indicates the extent of internal alignment and integrity of the HR function. It can be argued that it is crucial, from the perspective of performance, that the HR function matures in all areas equally because one under-developed area may hinder the development of the whole function.

From the wider perspective, which may be of particular interest to top management, the tool and framework allows the assessment of the extent to which the HR function adds value to the organisation and if its maturity level fits, and therefore is aligned with, the maturity of other business functions as well as the maturity of the organisation as a whole.

We believe that the tool and framework can be adapted to assess the maturity of other functions in organisations, and also as a supplement or alternative to internal audits.

Finally, using it periodically may lead to the capability to measure the process of development of the HR function, its progress, stagnation or even regress, its pace and meeting the HR and organisational objectives.


Baird, L. and Meshoulam, I. (1988). Managing Two Fits of Strategic Human Resource Management. Academy of Managerial Review. Vol. 13 Issue: 1, pp.116-128;

Armstrong M, Stephen Taylor (2014) Armstrong’s Handbook of HRM Practice, 14 th ed., Kogan Page Limited;

Cannings Anne, Trevor Hills, (2012) “A framework for auditing HR: strengthening the role of HR in the organisation”, Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 44 Issue: 3, pp.139-14;

Eisenstat, R.A. (1996), ‘‘What corporate human resources brings to the picnic: four models for functional management’’, organisational Dynamics, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 7-22;

Kearn Paul (2011), Kearns’ HR Maturity Scale extract from Consummate Professional Series CPS1, videorecording, Youtube, viewed 20.03.2018 ;

McKenna, E., & Beech, N. (2002). Human Resource Management. Pearson Education.

Potter, S. (2006). Doing postgraduate research. 2nd ed. London: Open University in association with SAGE Publications.

Ricardo de Souza Freitas, Wesley, Charbel José Chiappetta Jabbour, Fernando César Almada Santos, (2011) “Continuing the evolution: towards sustainable HRM and sustainable organisations”, Business Strategy Series, Vol. 12 Issue: 5, pp.226-23

Tubey, R., Rotich, K.J. and Kurgat, A. (2015). History, Evolution and Development of Human Resource Management: A Contemporary Perspective. Available from: European Journal of Business and Management.

Ulrich, D., Younger, J., Brockbank, W. and Ulrich, M. (2012). HR from the Outside In: Six Competencies for the Future of Human Resources. McGraw Hill Professional.

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