Is it Time to Ditch Your HR Department?
A recent Wall Street Journal article described how some organizations are shuttering their human resources departments in order to push some of the people issues back into the areas of the business where they exist. Advocates argue that by eliminating the HR department they’re placing responsibility for hiring, firing, compliance, and employee development within the business units – where leaders have first-hand knowledge of what will work best for their particular areas of influence. Eliminating HR, they say, flattens the organization, increases accountability for leaders, and eliminates the bottleneck created when these decisions must flow through HR.
Interesting theory, right? Well, I’m not buying it.
While I’m not in human resources, I do have extensive experience in higher education, adult learning and leadership development – and I just don’t buy these arguments to get rid of HR, especially when it comes to the complexities of developing people.
“Should we have a human resources department?” is entirely the wrong approach and the wrong question.
Instead, leaders should ask, “how can we leverage the knowledge, highly refined processes and best practices that lie within our human resources experts and at the same time engage individual business units to take a more active role in the development of their people?”
The argument should turn back to the individual leaders. I’m left wondering: why haven’t they already taken on more responsibility for employee development, hiring, firing, and maintaining compliance?
“Our people are our greatest asset.” We see it all the time on company websites, marketing materials, and interviews with CEOs. But if executives really believe this idea – that people are the most important part of any business – then why are so many of the critical tasks related to developing employees so often left exclusively in the hands of HR?
Senior executives should engage human resources to become a legitimate partner in developing the strategy of the organization. Recruiting, retaining and developing great talent is an ongoing effort, and all employees should take an active role in creating a culture where the “people issues” are everyone’s responsibility.
Any discussion over the direction of the organization should always involve those most knowledgeable about the future needs for attracting, training and retaining top talent. In almost every case that will require significant involvement from human resources to help assess future talent needs, training requirements, and methodologies. Leaders will have to create a process that fosters an ongoing, honest, open dialogue with each other, and human resources leaders will certainly need to have a voice in that conversation as well.
It’s hard to imagine a world without human resources – and I honestly don’t believe it’s really possible. I do, however, think that this renewed discussion should serve as a wakeup call to help senior leaders think about how they can partner with HR to optimize results when it comes to talent management. As the world of business evolves, so should the functional areas within – including human resources.
What kinds of changes have you seen in HR lately?