Is HR afraid of Six Sigma? if yes, Should we?

“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.” - H. James Harrington

I have often observed that most of the HR professionals have a mental blockade of using Six Sigma methodology in their day to day operations. 

HR professionals strongly feel that Six Sigma requires too much of analysis and playing with numbers. In a way it’s true, but it helps us streamline the gaps and the process. This results into judicious use of resources, savings and certainly reflects into overall performance. Is it the need of the hour? - YES indeed it is! Off late, HR leaders have started using the Six Sigma tools for their process optimization and rationalization. Those who are still conventional in their thought process will be left far behind in the race. I do not think that we have a choice here, do we? Think about it!! Six Sigma approach is critical to drive cost optimization and enhance productivity.

Six Sigma essentially is a methodology which focuses on understanding and meeting customers' needs by using a variety of tools, especially statistical analysis, to drive performance metrics. Although its roots are in manufacturing, there's no reason we can't adopt Six Sigma for our service environment. The concept of Six Sigma is much related to its mathematical definition - to reduce deviations to meet the standards. The Six Sigma training is applicable to all the sectors in today’s context. However, following points would make it clear as to how it will be related to the HR function -
  • Six sigma approach can reduce the time required to hire an employee and also can reduce the hiring cost
  • It improves employee orientation processes
  • It improves timeliness and the value of employee performance review
  • It also helps in improving employee satisfaction
  • Identifies and correct retention issues
  • Reduce Incentive Compensation errors
  • Eliminate over payments to Employees
  • Improving grievance handling process
  • Consolidation of employee information databases
  • Integration of multiple payroll systems for remote locations
  • Increase job posting hit rate
  • Increase retention using exit interview information
  • Optimize TAT for employee query resolution
HR professionals generally find it difficult to quantify their achievements in measurable terms. Six Sigma approach is a definite answer in the quest. Forget about transactional spectrum of HR, even softer aspects i.e. performance management and their impact can be objectively measured.

In my view, if we as HR Professional wants to make our mark, it is imperative that we have P&L outlook and change management ability to drive business efficiencies.  

To contribute in a positive manner to the bottom line of the company, it is inevitable that we develop and aclimatize ourselves with process methodologies with strong analytical and interpretation skills.


  1. Please throw more light on six sigma and its relationship with HRM.

  2. Hi Raj,
    Hope you are doing great!! I second your thought that Six Sigma is applicable in HR. While it is applied more in manufacturing processes any process that is repetitive in nature can benefit by applying Six Sigma methodologies to reduce Defects and Variation. In fact irrespective of the industry/domain/nature of services I believe there are 3 elements that scare and kill an organization. Delays, Defects & Variation.
    While 6 Sigma is a very powerful framework, one limitation I see with it in the context of this discussion around people touch by HR is, Six Sigma takes us away from the shop floor or rather we tend to get more “Data driven” and less of “See and Feel”. Like you rightly said, employee touch point and relationship building in today’s HR world is a clear development area in most of the organizations. While Six Sigma can help us in attacking any defects in a process and technology in use, People are the 3rd and most vital elements of an organization. Not having a 1st hand understanding of their expectations, strengths, limitations, conditions they are working in, Business pressures etc would leave HR as an ineffective function in the eyes of employees which is not a good state to be in.
    Out of my experience as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, I found the combination of Lean and Six Sigma to be very effective in achieving a overall perspective of a Process and People owning the process. Lean methodologies enable us to identify Waste and Reduce Cycle time through an End to End Value Stream Mapping of a process by observing and capturing live data Vs Six Sigma which is historical data driven. Combination of these two frame works would really help us in identifying & understanding the process, develop a End-End view of the process (Which is a missing element / ignorance with quite a few HR individuals today).
    Lean would help us in identifying variety of wastes in everything that we do. For instance in HR process:
    Waiting waste: Resource waiting on bench to get aligned to a project, Profile waiting in MIS for project contact to interview the candidate, HR waiting for a “Confirmed to join” till the date of joining to realize that the candidate is a drop out etc.
    Over-processing waste: Too many rounds of interviews, Complicated / Non-value added approval process etc
    Inventory waste: People on Bench, Hiring requests waiting in HR queue for initiation
    Motion waste: Excessive approval steps, Line HR sitting in central HR location leaving the process teams in different floor/building/location etc.
    Over Production: Excess bench/Resource pipeline due to hiring based on forecasted demand, Training resources on skills not necessary in the immediate to near future.
    We know most of them happen every day, but are we consciously trying to do something about it? I feel we need to do lot more..!! Today, we over-look most of these wastes with Lead time / Vendors /Market /Policies /Budgets etc as the reasons that are not in our control.
    Educating HR personal with some of these Lean Six Sigma principles and helping them realize the effectiveness of these principles in our day to day lives (Not just at work / in a process but in everything we do) will bring up a lot of change in the way we think, see, manage our work and deliverables.

    Cheers, Suresh

  3. Anonymous9:20:00 PM

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    It deals with various important aspects of management, especially those related to Leadership & People Management, which the mainstream business publications often ignore.

    It's also relatively cheap. I guess its annual subscription is about Rs. 400 which is even less than the cost of a standard Pizza.

    Their last issue had a really educative article by Robert Kaplan (the father of Balanced Scorecard method) where he talks about how organisations can create opportunities out of current economic downturn.

    I got its subscription online through their website:

    If you like the magazine, kindly refer it to others like I am doing.


  4. Anonymous4:52:00 PM

    Dear Kumar and Raj,

    Thanks for your advice and suggestions. I am currently working as Manager- HR in an advertising agency. I would like to understand more about Lean Six sigma. Can you recommend any institute wich could help me.

    You can email me on

    Your help will be truly appreciated.

    Regards, Veena

  5. Who could say "no" to Six Sigma for its focus and success?

    Reading your article from the viewpoint of working with the people problems in organizations, I often find more standardized policy and procedures are imperative, the vision and mission are crucial and often lacking either altogether or in implementation. Six Sigma would improve and stabilize those consistencies so needed in the workplace.

    I agree with "future mantra," the people part of the equation would enable the Six Sigma approach to soar.

    Put our proven assessments (98% accuracy) to the test. We have hands on experience to show how people lead and how to tap into their strengths to get results. Our instantly applicable programs make lasting impacts in the workplace. We absolutely compliment the Six Sigma approach.

    By the way Raj, I think that was one of the best straightforward write-ups of Six Sigma I have seen. Nice Job!


  6. Hi All,

    I would like to know how can a HR Professional can optget a six sigma certification, and what would be the pre-requisties to take up this certification.You can contact me at

  7. Vivek Misra11:26:00 AM

    Dear Raj,

    I do not have the data point to really say that HR professional's are afraid of Six Sigma?

    If asked Should We? Is Six Sigma an obstacle to innovation? My Answer is “NO”. Since Six Sigma helps us to understand the Gaps Analysis and also helps us in streamlining our process and Processes. Helps us to understand Root cause, Goal statement, What is in Scope? and What is Out of Scope?

    I agree with Raj points on the significance of six Sigma and we should always go ahead with such things.

    Vivek Misra

  8. I strongly agree with Raj's thoughts.. HR professionals are often asked/expected to quantify a lot of things and a strong understanding of Six Sigma will help in doing that. Moreover, Six Sigma will help HR to be agile and Lean, which is the need of the hour for HR function.


    Dilbag Singh
    MBA (HR) & Lean Certified professional.

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