Disappearing HR

On May 30, 2017, in HRExaminer, John Sumser, by John Sumser

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John Sumser is a Principal Analyst for HRExaminer

Talent Management is largely a line of business problem with administrative support coming from HR. The risk and accountability lie squarely with the organizational function that actually does the work. HR helps but the functional business unit takes the risk and reaps the reward.

That’s not to say that HR’s contribution is unimportant. HR can bring problem-solving approaches, ways of thinking about development, tools for embedding learning in the work, administrative discipline, recruiting expertise, sourcing strategies, succession planning assistance, compensation guidance, performance management methodologies, and organizational development techniques.

It’s like the old saw about the difference between commitment and involvement. In ham and eggs, the pig is committed. The chicken is involved. In talent management, the line of business is committed. HR is involved. (Interestingly, this is different in the Federal government where HR ‘owns’ the talent.)

The graphic at the bottom of the page is a screenshot from Oracle’s Cloud for Finance page. Oracle, who is rarely unintentional about these things, is clearly pointing to the emerging near term trend of blending HR directly into operations. The longstanding focus on HR as a discrete center of excellence is giving way to a view of HR that is embedded (as added value) in the operations process.

Shifting the focus of HR activities from HR as the buyer and decision maker to HR as the service provider to the line of business will take some doing. Many HRTechnology providers have no real access to the line of business. Building a sales and service operation that reaches all of HR’s customers is not going to be an easy task.

That’s why the enterprise level platform as a service (PaaS) initiatives mean so much. The major providers (ADP, Ceridian, Cornerstone, Halogen, IBM, Infor, Oracle, SAP, Ultimate, Workday) all have an observable ecosystem strategy that includes some level of API integration. The openness of the underlying platform is a matter of strategy, paranoia and quality concerns.

The future of many point solution providers will depend on their choices of partners. No one can afford to participate in all of the ecosystems. So, these partnership decisions can make or break the point solution providers. The major benefit is being able to piggyback on the work of the prime ecosystem mover.

In many ways, Workday is leading the movement towards embedded HR. They do not emphasize it. But, the Learning module is designed to be tightly integrated with the actual work while their various office-like products (spreadsheets and reporting documents) move squarely into the operational environment. Workday’s strategy is to make administrative data useful by reliably embedding the current version of the data directly in the workflow.

To be sure, the idea of an HR that disappears into the work is new. You can also bet that the leaders are uncomfortable with the description. But the trend is clear. In major companies, HR will be increasingly merged with operational details and processes.

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