Organizing a human resources department as a matrix may make sense if employees have dual responsibilities. An employee might have one manager for daily operations and another for special projects. Because HR departments conduct both administrative and strategic work, this business model works well. However, before implementing a matrix structure in its HR department, a small business needs to consider the impact on the people, processes and technology required to make work flow smoothly.


In a traditional organizational chart, the head of the department appears at the top of the organizational chart in the center. His direct reports appear below him. The chart ends with the lowest level of employee appearing at the bottom. Using a matrix structure, the highest-level position appears in the upper left, with direct reports appear under it. Then, lines connect that position to other managerial positions shown to the right. This depicts the dual-reporting responsibilities. Using color helps differentiate the reporting relationships.


HR departments administer employee benefits, manage the payroll, handle hiring processes and provide career development opportunities to the workforce. Many HR tasks apply to all types of workers. Some departments require additional support. For example, the IT department may require its employees to maintain technical certifications. In this case, a trainer may report to both the HR department and the IT department. Each department collaborates to define shared goals and objectives. The top HR manager defines accountability. Additional guidance and governance may be provided by groups or individuals representing each function. Shared goals drive the strategic direction. When things go wrong, the blame gets shared. Good project management ensures the work gets done.


Reporting to two managers may result in conflict. Competing metrics, different expectations and time constraints may result in confusion and discord. When an employee works in two departments, he may need to attend twice the amount of meetings. While shared resources offer a cost-effective alternative to hiring two employees, good communication must prevail. To alleviate stress, the HR department leader must define roles and responsibilities.


Before implementing a matrix structure in HR, a small business must establish a need. A small business conducting multiple HR initiatives, such as career development, process improvement or orientation programs, may benefit from assigning employees to both a project manager and a human resources director. If clear reporting relationships and tasks can be delineated, the matrix structure typically produces better decision-making, because more people have input.