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Should we call time on human resource departments?

People who work in the dark arts of HR say they are a valuable asset for both management and staff, yet they still refer to people as ‘resources’. Surely that’s just rude.

People who work for companies are their lifeline, their most important assets (don’t think that’s rude) and I bet no-one, anywhere wants to be called a ‘human resource’.

Essentially the name itself is wrong; it tells everyone that these people manage people in the same way businesses look at finance, property or machines, something to weighed, evaluated and then disposed of. But humans are different to these inanimate assets; we tend to have feelings, family and might also contribute to bettering the wider society.

Also, these HR departments are attempting to serve two masters, which tends not to turn out too well. They are meant to act as a sort of internal union, supporting employees and their issues, whilst simultaneously doing whatever senior management wants them to do: monitoring, appraising and disciplining the other employees. That is a huge conflict of interests, right there and you can bet that in any conflict between management and workers, HR will tend heavily to the management side.

More than simple nomenclature or whom HR should support, does your HR department deliver value?  Many companies have shut down these departments completely, reduced them to a minimum, or even outsourced them. They did this in the safe knowledge that HR was not delivering any real value, instead, spending their time on bureaucracy, administration or legalities. They, in effect, become a lower-paid layer and, outreacher of, management. If your HR doesn’t deliver some unique benefits, then outsourcing it makes a lot of business sense.

Other companies, however, invest in the ‘people function’ ethos; they see the need for someone to find, recruit, retain and develop its people. Bernard Marr, an enterprise performance expert, gives his recommendations:

  • Do not call it HR

  • Put two teams in place; a people analytics team and a people support team.

  • The role of the people analytics team would be to look at people more scientifically and support the company with insights and analytics. This team would look for talent gaps, determine who would make a good employee for the company and then how to recruit them. They would determine which employees have the most potential and predict variables, such as staff turnover.

  • The people support team would, obviously, support all employees in the organisation, from top to bottom, equally. The team would help employees with their development, facilitate staff engagement, look at company morale, culture and everyone’s well-being.

If that sounds a bit wishy-washy, then just outsource the HR function entirely.

Nigel Phillips

 

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