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What if HR was Outlawed?

On August 7, 2018, in Editorial Advisory Board, HRExaminer, Jason Lauritsen, by Jason Lauritsen

Jason Lauritsen, HRExaminer.com Editorial Advisory Board Contributor

Jason Lauritsen, HRExaminer.com Editorial Advisory Board Contributor

by Jason Lauritsen

During a conversation I had with a former senior HR executive from a Fortune 500 company, he said something that stopped me in my tracks. “HR leaders increasingly spend a lot of time talking about building world-class HR departments. I’ve never met a CEO who gives a #@!& about having a world-class HR department. The CEO’s I know only care about results that will help the business succeed. That’s why HR isn’t at the table. They don’t get it.”

He is right. And as I think back about my own time leading HR teams, I was guilty of this. I would talk about building the best HR department in the city or the region. That doesn’t mean that we weren’t focused on driving results, but it meant that I saw us as somehow separate from the business. I’ve been hearing this kind of thinking more frequently from my colleagues in HR. I think it’s rooted in a desire for relevance and impact, but it’s misplaced.. It’s a mindset that we need to challenge and change if we are going to reinvent HR to be the weapon our organizations need it to be.

To explore the degree to which your HR organization is designed to produce the results your CEO is seeking, try asking yourself this question:

What would happen to your HR department if HR was outlawed?

Assume that based on public outcry against HR, an executive order was made by the President that outlaws the existence of formal HR departments. Your organization has exactly 30 days to eliminate the HR department or else face stiff penalties and fines. What would happen with you and your team?

  • What functions would get immediately outsourced?
  • What functions would be insourced to other departments (i.e. payroll to accounting)?
  • What things would the business leaders fight to keep and move in the operation?
  • What people would they fight to keep and move into other areas of the business?
  • What things would they let go of completely?
  • Would there be a job for you (i.e. Are you viewed as being able to contribute as a leader in a non-HR role?
  • How would the functioning of the business have to change without an HR department?

Don’t laugh this off. I know it’s a hypothetical exercise, but these questions quickly cut to core of the issue for HR. The punchline is that it isn’t about HR departments, it never has been. It is about facilitating business results through people. When you consider the questions above and realize how much of what happens in HR might be quickly outsourced or kicked to the curve by the business given the chance, it’s startling. We simply cannot continue to do things the way we have in the past.

While I don’t think HR is in danger of being outlawed anytime soon, it may be in danger of something worse–irrelevance.  We must  transform how we think about and execute the work we call Human Resources.

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