Just to clear the air, I think we need human resources departments – shocker I know – but allow me to explain.
There’s been a whole lot of talk and discussion because of a couple of LinkedIn articles; “Why We No Longer Need HR Departments” by Bernard Marr, and the response by Josh Bersin, “Why We Do Need The HR Department.” It’s important to point out that these gentlemen are highly successful and socially influential. Mr. Marr is a Best-Selling Author and Expert Performance Consultant, while Mr. Bersin is the Founder and Principle of Bersin by Deloitte. Why is that important? Well if you use an attention grabbing headline and target a large demographic on LinkedIn, then boom, you’ve got instant success.
Marr’s article was really an exercise in verbiage – wordplay – jargon. It’s not that we no longer need HR departments, it’s simply that we need to change the name because as he says people do not like to be called “human resources.” Sigh…so we love to change the words around – every generation or so we decide that the language needs to be updated. … i.e. New Hire Orientation is now Onboarding, Hiring is now Talent Acquisition; that’s right, you weren’t hired – you were acquired.
After reading these articles, another problem I have with them is that there seems to be a basic omission of what Human Resources is paid to do. We’ve discussed this several times on SmartRecruiters Blog but the essential function of HR is to keep the company out of the court room, recruit new talent, train them, compensate them and engage them. Now that’s a very high level view because there are other things such as assist with the brand messaging, culture promotion and workforce development, but the 1st duty is not to be friends with the employees, it’s not to be friends with the executives and managers, it’s to protect the company from liability – liability which is created by employees. From executives to the frontlines, any employee can cost the company millions if he or she decides to break the rules, doing something completely stupid.
You can change the name from Human Resources, in fact many companies have changed the name to People Resources, Talent Management, Human Capital Management, or Talent Masters (I don’t like that one). I’ve even seen a job ad for a Chief People Officer. There are other companies that do not call their employees, human capital or talent – they call them associates or partners. Figure out what works for you but make no mistake HR is necessary.
“Good to Great” by Jim Collins is one of my all-time favorite books; sure the language is a bit outdated now but the meaning is still relevant: get the right people, put them in the right places, pay attention to market trends and know what you do best. The book strongly suggests using HR as a strategic partner and not an administrative function. If that reference is too old for you, consider FORD Motor Company, where upon joining the company CEO Alan Mulally immediately partnered with the HR department to turn that ship around. Tony Hsieh of Zappos! recently said in an interview that they relied on HR to – among other things – determine cultural fit of every potential hire. Howard Schultz of is another prime example of how Starbucks works closely with HR Executives to drive the company’s vision, mission and goals throughout the company.
Truly successful companies value HR, or Talent Resources or whatever you want to call it. So my suggestion, and I’ve said this to co-workers and job seekers alike: don’t get lost in the titles, pay attention to the duties. Are you a Receptionist or an Executive Assistant? Are you a Recruiter or a Talent Acquisition Specialist? Are you a Sandwich Maker or Sandwich Artist? Doesn’t matter much, it’s all about how you do what you do, so call HR whatever you will, just take pride in the fact that organizations entrust HR with the organization’s most important asset.
Chris Fields is an HR professional and leadership guy who also helps job seekers write great resumes and blogs. His work can be found at ResumeCrusade.com & CostofWork.com. Photo Credit mashup of aforementioned articles.
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How do you see the future role of Human Resources?