Thinking about Getting Rid of Your HR Department? It's about Time to Seriously Rethink the Role of HR

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by: Idris Mootee

Human Resources was once a professional practice. Some how something happened and it is not what it was supposed to be. Instead of becoming a business partner of the CEOs and CFOs, they have become irrelevant. When I read about conferences around “strategic HR leadership”, I find it funny. HR today are, for most practical purposes, neither strategic nor leaders. Here ‘s the conference’s mission:

‘By attending Strategic HR Leadership Summit, HR professionals from across the U.S. will discover the inside secrets of America’s best performing and most highly valued human resources professionals. They’ll learn how to maximize HR’s strategic value within an organization, transforming it from an administrative function to a dynamic, bottom-line-enhancing business asset.’

Their focus has shifted to paper pushing (benefits), making a big deal out of annual performance reveal (which is a waste of time) and benchmarking salary and benefits (which should be automated). They often sit in a detached place where they are neither involved in the day-to-day issues of employees not strategic decisions on the executive level. I think we need to seriously rethink the value and existence of such a function.

The following are familiar HR conversations when you are interviewing:

“ARE LOOKING TO JOIN OUR FAST-PACED COMPANY” – We have no time to train you and no one knows what they’re doing.

 “SEEKING CANDIDATES WITH A WIDE VARIETY OF EXPERIENCE” – You’ll need it to replace three people who just got let go.

“CRITICAL PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS A MUST” – You’re walking into a company in perpetual chaos.

I have been recruiting and grooming talents (bright talents) for more than 20+ years and I only hire people with potential 5X of who they presently are. My job is to treat them as teabags and put them in hot water and only then you know how good they are. My biggest achievement is always the face that I have successfully groomed hundreds of smart and creative people. HR never played a role in what I did other than organizing the 401Ks. So why are we carrying the overheads of HR and why should employees waste them with them? Can that professions be saved? Here are some advice:

First, get rid of that annual performance review. So often flout reality? Why are so many people processes duplicative and wasteful, creating mountains of paperwork for every little transaction? There is nothing constructive about annual performance review. It’s a mainstream practice that has baffled me for years. I hate putting people through it.

Feedback is great. The more the better. But the primary purpose of performance reviews is to enlighten talents about what they should be doing better or differently. It is often practice as intimidation aimed at preserving management’s authority and power advantage. Such intimidation is unnecessary, though: Management has the power with or without the performance review. Feedback, performance and pay should be three separate things.

1/ Feedback is very important and should happen regularly and informally. It is very important that employees understand that this constructive criticism are about helping them to be a better at what they do, it is part of the development process.

2/ Performance is something to be determined by management based on criteria such as contribution, building culture and work ethics etc etc. How often does these appraisals address “innovation”, do they encourage any at all?

3/ Pay is often a sensitive as it involves equity. There should be a formula based on experiences, qualifications, job performances, company performances and market supply and demand. Currently most performance review accomplishes nothing and most of the time creates tensions that carry over to their everyday relationships. We’ve all been there. That piece of paper is the wall between the employee and his boss.

Here’s the biggest myth. The idea that pay is a function of performance, and that the words being spoken in a performance review will affect pay. This is Bullshit. They don’t. Pay is primarily determined by market forces (and companies’ profitability that affect budget) with most jobs placed in a pay range prior to an employee’s hiring.

Here’s the worse, companies try to apply the same rating scale to people with different functions. They don’t redo the checklist for every different activity. As a result, management reduces their global sentiments to a set of metrics that captures the unique qualities of neither the person nor the job.

HR has failed to deal with these challenges. So the professional itself should get a below average performance. Many HR departments are not "well positioned" to meet the goals of the company’s management agenda. There isn’t any that capability there. There is also a lack of integration between the HR and business agendas. Companies change or short their business strategy often these days but HR strategies stay exactly the same.

HR is about people. Put the ‘Human” back into HR and start with simplifying over-engineered processes and looking at “Personalizing” the workplace and “Talent Development” as this is the no. 1 job.

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