Is HR Dead?

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Mar 24

In the span of my career, so far, I’ve always had this ambivalent attitude towards the people that work in HR departments. Not their professionalism, though some didn’t have much of it (and neither do some people in every department in a company…). Not their work ethic as many worked long hours. Not their ability to mediate some very tough situations.

HR just wasn’t very helpful. Here’s what HR does for me as a manager:

HR focuses on standard, annual projects

Makes sure people get their goals done on time. Makes sure the performance review process is proceeding as it should. This is a lot of work, but it’s not a lot of executing, especially with a decent management team.

Or, perhaps, the department is a vendor manager to all of those functions outsourced to other companies over the years — benefits, 401(k) administration, etc.

HR mediates disputes

I haven’t had any since I’ve been a manager, thinking that prevention is worth fifty pounds of cure. But there have been some very tough situations that HR has handled — all with the mission of protecting the company and, perhaps, the manager, over the person working in the cubicle. I get that it is their inherent duty to protect the company; it’s not a complaint (but this is why people don’t trust HR).

Support one-off events

The most obvious of these these types of one-off events is ensuring the layoff process follows the law (there is that protecting the company thing again). This, again, is a good service but one that most managers hope to not have to go through.

Another is restructuring the job titles within the company to standardize the differences in work efforts. This is especially good for merged companies. This has also been an excuse to look very hard at salaries and titles to see if the market pay matches up. I haven’t heard of anyones pay going UP after one of those studies, have you?

Where is the HR strategy in action?

But, that’s about it. Maybe that is enough. But what about matching the talent to the needs of the organization? What about employees engaging in the work? What about improving management? What about helping managers structure their departments by matching current talent to jobs? How about tools so that a manager can better understand the strengths of their employees — and the employee understanding their own strengths? Not so much.

Please don’t note anything about administering benefits; much of the benefit work is outsourced from the company. Recruiting could qualify as an HR function, but I look at recruiting as a funnel that gets the right people in front of the hiring manager, not as an HR responsibility (I might be wrong on that).

Now, this is my experience and I’m not into condemning the people in a department just because the department name happens to be Human Resources. But my experience has been more like, “Hi, I’m from Human Resources and I’m here to help you.” instead of really helping me. With all the talk of Human Resources getting to the decision making table, are there any success stories out there? Or, differently, what has to happen for a company in the future to have Human Resources be a vital part of the organization?

I’m curious and looking forward to some good comments.


About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.