Five years ago, I wrote the following article. It’s about the reasons that people hate HR. It was prompted by an article in Fast Company that is cited in the piece. Five years ago, there was some promise that HR would come under scrutiny and transform itself.
I don’t think that that’s what happened.
Does any of this still sound familiar to you?
Here’s the bombshell. HR’s reputation in the conference rooms of the planet has gotten worse. In an article certain to raise the ire of
many an HR manager, Keith H. Hammonds, deputy editor of Fast Company, rants coherently and at length about the failings of contemporary HR.
Here are a few tasty morsels from his screed:
After close to 20 years of hopeful rhetoric about becoming “strategic partners” with a “seat at the table” where the business decisions that matter are made, most human-resources professionals aren’t nearly there. They have no seat, and the table is locked inside a conference room to which
they have no key. HR people are, for most practical purposes, neither strategic nor leaders.
- Why are annual performance appraisals so time-consuming — and so routinely useless? Why is HR so often a henchman for the chief financial officer, finding ever-more ingenious ways to cut benefits and hack at payroll? Why do its communications — when we can understand them at all — so often flout reality? Why are so many people processes duplicative and wasteful, creating a forest of paperwork for every minor transaction? And why does HR insist on sameness as a proxy for equity?
- In a knowledge economy, companies that have the best talent win. We all know that. Human resources execs should be making the most of our, well, human resources — finding the best hires, nurturing the stars, fostering a productive work environment — just as IT runs the computers and finance
minds the capital. HR should be joined to business strategy at the hip. Instead, most HR organizations have ghettoized themselves literally to the brink of obsolescence. They are competent at the administrivia of pay, benefits, and retirement, but companies increasingly are farming those
functions out to contractors who can handle such routine tasks at lower expense. What’s left is the more important strategic role of raising the reputational and intellectual capital of the company — but HR is, it turns out, uniquely unsuited for that.
- Most human-resources managers aren’t particularly interested in, or equipped for, doing business. And in a business, that’s sort of a problem. As guardians of a company’s talent, HR has to understand how people serve corporate objectives. Instead, “business acumen is the single biggest factor
that HR professionals in the U.S. lack today,” says Anthony J. Rucci, executive vice president at Cardinal Health Inc., a big health-care supply distributor.
Be prepared. This article signals a tidal wave of extremely critical thinking about HR. Now that the decade’s worth of layoffs are over, HR managers around the world should be prepared to answer very tough questions about the value that they bring to the party.
Do your local HR folks (and yourself) a favor. Read the article and have a coherent opinion. Make sure that anyone you care for in the business sees it.