HR Departments have reached their use by date

This is a post that serves no purpose other than allowing me to vent.

Before you come with the pitchfork; this is not aimed at any individual. I have met some nice HR types, and I am sure there are many. But HR as a job category is an idea that must die.

I believe CEOs and boards actually recognise that people problems are relatively intractable, and as evidence I offer to you their typical solution: The HR Department.

Beyond the administration of payroll and recruitment tasks, these departments represent a tacit acknowledgement buy the Board that the people problem is in the ‘too hard basket’. This may be a contentious claim, but so as not to digress, here are my arguments for this claim:

-          When a ‘problem’ is outsourced to a group of people who have no authority and no power and no real ability to fix the problem, I would suggest there is no real expectation that the problem will be solved.

-          How many CEOs have come from HR?

-          The only reason why HR are still around is because of a complex legislative environment (a government requirement) that requires some dedicated focus to navigate.

-          No good manager will rely on HR to make an appointment in their department without them vetting the candidate, so their role is limited to merely filtering the noise for the sake of convenience.

-          HR can’t conduct performance reviews and can’t improve performance, and are restricted to writing increasingly more rules, providing templates and persuading boards of the benefits of compliance that largely serve to entrench their own positions.

-          When was the last time an HR Department played an active role in dismissing a CEO?

-          What percentage of HR solutions are ‘more training is needed’ – and who is then expected to organise said training?

-          One of the few quantifiable metrics in people management is labour turnover. In most organisations, who is held accountable for the actual percentage? Not HR – they will report on it and blame operational departments for the problem, and offer training to help address it.

-          Why are HR Departments jumping on social justice causes that exist in society when the employees they are meant to serve would come from the full spectrum of views on any particular cause? Arguably, picking sides would represent not only be unproductive in terms of the core business, it is also a breach of the trust that should be fostering in the employer-employee relationship.

-          What would happen to an organisation if the HR Department did not exist and these activities were carried out by the line managers? And, how many HR initiatives would survive if it relied on being championed by busy line managers?

-          They perpetuate questionable practices by introducing psychological instruments that have often already been proven wrong, or at best have not been proven – often at great expense to the organisation, in misguided effort to justify their existence.

-          Does any employee actually believe that what they tell a HR representative in confidence won’t reach their line manager – or another senior manager?

I am not alone in my views – here is a very articulate one to read before you comment in anger. I really like this line: “ HR is like an aberrant traffic cop now; it can often say “stop” but can’t really say “go.”