Human resource staffers face daily challenges while operating in traditional small business hierarchies. These challenges include developing employee relations strategies, planning for employee career paths and dealing with employee benefits plans. When these experts work in unconventional business structures, such as the matrix structure and the divisional structure, challenges become magnified due to differences in management styles and business objectives among work groups within the same organization.

Matrix Structure

The matrix structure categorizes employees by both their functional role and their business product line. For instance, if a company manufactures both Widgets and Gadgets, the matrix structure incorporates a Widget sales department, a Widget accounting staff and a Widget customer service office, as well as the same departments for the Gadget product line. The related departments for the two product lines follow the same general company principles, but keep their internal processes separate.

Role of HR in Matrix Structure

When working within a matrix structure, HR staffers function more like consultants in the employment and career planning processes than as overseers of all-encompassing personnel objectives. Since matrix structures lack a strict hierarchy, HR workers must function within the framework established by the department manager. In a company with several product lines and differing roles for each one, the rules of each department can vary greatly and defy efforts to establish a "one-size-fits-all" solution.

Divisional Structure

The divisional structure shares some similarities with the matrix structure, in that employees are grouped by functional role and product line. However, the divisional structure enforces a stricter hierarchy within each division. Each department manager must report his or her progress to the division manager, who then reports to the company owners or directors. For example, a company with a divisional structure would have the Widgets accounting supervisor and the Widgets sales manager report to the Widgets division chief. The correlating positions in the Gadgets division would report to their division leader, and both division heads would report to the company leaders.

Role of HR in Divisional Structure

Instead of working with each autonomous work group, as in a matrix structure, human resource professionals would work directly with the division manager in a divisional structure. The human resources department develops, administers and applies rules and processes for each division. The divisional structure allows human resource professionals to apply more uniform policies across departments and gives them more authority to enact and enforce those policies with a greater degree of consistency.