On April 14 the Wall Street Journal ran an article about companies eliminating their HR departments. If you poll large enough population of corporate executives about the role of HR, a majority will tell you that HR is an obstacle to getting things done.

A couple of weeks ago Robin Schooling, fellow HR blogger at HR Schoolhouse, stated she had asked a group of HR ladies how to increase employee engagement and their unanimous response was to hold a picnic.

When we went to school many of us were taught to learn by the rote method.

So taking these facts into consideration where did HR lose its way? Since its inception, in many cases we were like the school student. We performed practices the same way every time.  If we needed to help someone with a benefit question we followed the same plan for action each time we answered that question. We are considered an obstacle to the organization because we do so. We are considered an obstacle because we portray ourselves as this silo that can do no wrong because that is what we do.

But times have changed. We need a new model for HR that is centered around being a vital part of the equation, We need a new HR model that is centered around the culture of the organization, centered around the voice of the customer and centered around alignment between HR and the rest of the organization. So how do we achieve this new model?

The late Senator Edward Kennedy, in the eulogy for his brother Robert, uttered these words –

“The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American Society. "Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not. “

Forgive me for a paraphrase of the above statement but the essence of the statement describes where we should be in today’s global workplace. The future does not belong to the HR function who are content with today, apathetic towards organizational problems and the needs and wants of the human capital assets, who respond to new ways with the time worn responses “we don’t do things that way here,” or “We tried that and it didn’t work.”

The future of HR and even more important our organizations will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideas from within the organization. Some corporate executives see things as they are and say why, HR needs to critically think about their operations and say why not.

We lost our way because we as a profession have not learned how to get out of the schoolhouse realm (sorry for the pun Robin!!!) and stop trying to run the organization based on rote thoughts and actions. We need to look at the operation with new eyes. As Chip and Dan Heath and others have suggested we need to see the problems, feel the problems and through the use of critical thinking change the corporate culture. We need to understand that things change as we evolve.

We need to understand that this evolution requires new ways of doing things and thinking about things. We need to learn to vision the organization as a whole not as a part of something. It is only by making these changes can we return to being a valued part of the organization. It is how we can guarantee that we still have a profession to be part of in the future.

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Comment by Keith D. Halperin on April 16, 2014 at 1:30pm

Thanks, Daniel. How can you lose your way if you never knew where you were going (or how to get there) in the first place?

Comment by Steven Guine on April 17, 2014 at 8:41pm

Good article, Daniel. There are many automated tools (Oracle and Workday come to mind) which can eliminate HR altogether for a small or medium firm. For larger firms, there will always be a place for HR since there are so many moving parts. The tools available today allow a manager to manage employee reviews, compensation, training, benefits, and succession planning. There is no need for a dedicated person. That headcount budget can be redeployed more effectively and productively.

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on April 18, 2014 at 11:00am

@ Steven: Well-said. Many low-touch, low-value add HR (and recruiting) tasks can be "tran-sourced" (no-sourced [eliminated}, through-sourced [automated], or out-sourced [sent-away]) for much less than even a jr. HR Generalist is likely to make.



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