My industry is falling apart… and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Because it is time for HR to die.
This might sound like something melodramatic or vindictive, but truthfully, it’s neither. Let me explain.
If we’re going to put things in boxes (something I vehemently hate but try to make peace with for the sake of communication), I work primarily on the OD side of HR/OD, which stands for “Human Resources/Organizational Development.” In an organization, this is the group who deals with anything “people-related.” In theory, it’s the human side of business.
In practice, though, it often ends up being more about Human Resistance than being a Human Resource. To add insult to injury, this side of business doesn’t really get treated like a respectable part of the business, either. There are (at least) three very good reasons for this (and none of them are the “fault” of HR/OD people):
- First, it’s due to the way HR came into existence, through personnel functions and labor relations. From the very beginning, it was seen as subservient to the “real” leaders, who ran things like finance, operations, or sales.
- Second, HR/OD typically deals in the “softer” side of business — meaning it’s harder to quantify than something like finance, operations, or sales. (I hope the irony of how much more difficult this supposed “soft” side of business can be isn’t lost on you.)
- Third, because of #1 and #2, the folks that have been historically attracted to these roles have tended to not know how to speak the language of business — it hasn’t been necessary. Of course, now it is, but this creates a vicious cycle leading us back to HR/OD not being respected.
Recently I’ve been noticing a trend for many organizations to outsource more of their HR/OD workforce. These people can, supposedly at least, easily shift into a more consultative type of role, and by doing this a company can reduce it’s full-time employees and drastically cut expenses.
What’s exciting about this seemingly scary trend is that if it can continue on a large scale, and HR can disintegrate to the point where it doesn’t look anything like where it started, there will be an opportunity to build something new in its place — which is exactly what needs to happen.
Also, I’m pretty sure most of the wonderful people I know in HR/OD would relish the opportunity to actually, finally, BE a human resource (something the current system will never allow).
We, as a workforce and marketplace, haven’t been ready to create something new until very recently. But now we are. The evidence is piling up around us, in the form of the R.O.W.E., the 20% rule, and “crazy” new ideas entering the business lexicon from books like ReWork and Drive (and hopefully My Book when it comes out).
Soon, we will build what should have been there all along: internal, equal, top-level* strategic business partners who are 100% sold out to building a healthy work environment, fostering exceptional company culture, and championing full employee engagement. (I call the leader of this group a Chief Culture Officer, and it is one piece of the puzzle in the very exciting future of organizations.)
The death of HR will mean the birth of something much better.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait.
P.S. For a more in-depth look at this issue, download the article “Talent Pool or Talent Puddle” by Marc Effron and Miriam Ort.
*I say “top-level” so you know where in the organization I’m talking about — but I had to add this footnote as a caveat, because, as we know, the real leaders of the future lead from the bottom.
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