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May 23, 2009

Why HR has outlived its use by date and 6 things I would do about it

I grew up in an industry dominated by HR policies, maneuvering and hard nosed HR managers. In fact, in all my career to date I have never yet met a HR person who has done anything like what their title suggests.

Instead of developing Human Resources they are the gatekeepers to the organization. Instead of focusing on the value adding areas of succession planning, talent development and knowledge retention - they deal generally with enforcing policies and finding innovative ways to manipulate employees.

Today many of the core HR areas can be easily outsourced. Candidate selection can be done externally, policy enforcement should be done by line managers, payroll is now a software program and time keeping has also long been a software program also.

Whenever I was looking for work the last people I would call would be the HR department. They have been built and shaped to frustrate you. They erect artificial barriers around education and qualifications because they lack the discipline specific judgment to know when to "take a bet" on a candidate.

The only time most people ever see them is when something has already gone horribly wrong and they are there to read the last rites instead of trying to prevent and mitigate the situation from the employees standpoint.

I am glad that I no longer work in an industry that relies heavily on a HR department.And as we move further and further from a culture where industrial relations is required, they are becoming more and more irrelevant.

Some thought on how to make HR more about the human resources instead of about the corporate policies.

1) Get used to working in the cloud. Not the IT cloud but the resources cloud. A core of full time employees surrounded by a loose affiliation of contract and semi permanent employees. The best people do not work as employees these days - not enough money or freedom in it!

2) Regardless of the permanent or contract issues they need to make sure that a consultancy can field the best team on the day - every day! This means a strong balance of skills and experiences and developing programs that enhance this balance. (People do not pay thousands of dollars a day for graduates - or at least they won't do it twice!)

3) Two candidates for every senior role, and make sure their development path supports that.

4) Leave candidate selection, interviewing and testing to external agencies working directly with the hiring managers. Do not get in the way unless it is to ensure process is followed.

5) Do not make the processes too onerous. There are far too many employment assurance programs being implemented in the HR industry.

6) Become, as Jack Welch wrote, the employees advocate - not the companies advocate. The company already has a lot of advocates.

HR as it currently exists has definitely outlived its usefulness. Industry is changing, the types of workers in many organizations has changed dramatically, the technology and capabilities we all have available to us have changed, and our expectations of a department for managing human resources have changed along with all of that.

About time they caught up I reckon...