HR … What’s Up With the “New HR”

org chart artThe Changing Role of HR

In the July-August, 2015 issue of Harvard Business Review, Peter Cappelli authored an article “It’s Time to Build a New HR, Why We Love to Hate HR… and What HR Can Do About It.”  In the October, 2015 issue of HBR the Interaction section (p22-23) relates reader reaction to Cappelli’s article along with his response. One of the points raised has to do with the changing or changed function of HR in the United States from a role of employee advocacy to one of shareholder accountability. Cappelli wonders if this intentional shift has alienated employees. That is in the sense that they are feeling unprotected or on their own, in what is perceived as, the struggle to maintain balance in their work life against managerial power wielded toward their personal security.

The HR Constituency & Accountability

If you are employed you know what this dynamic is all about.  If you are employed as a manager, you probably wonder why the employees who report to you don’t get it.  Don’t they know everyone is accountable for the success of the organization and that means sales, growth, profits, service, and efficiency.  The organization wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t accountable to its shareholders, stakeholders, investors, or owners depending upon whatever type of organization it is.  HR needs to support this financial challenge just like Sales or Manufacturing or IT, or Accounting, right?  But, just for the sake of balance …

If you’re not a manager, that is you work for a manager/supervisor, in a productive or service or administrative role, what is your perspective on the role of HR?  First, is it Human Relations or Human Resources?  Normally it’s the latter, I think.  Now, what does that mean to the employees?  HR is where they go for services related to or like hiring, onboarding, benefits, payroll, compliance, FMLA, FLSA, performance issues, labor contract interpretation, and anything else in the way of support including issues with peers or management mistreatment.  So, what is this thing about hating HR and rebuilding it?  Where will the employees go if the HR department is accountable to the shareholders and the board but not accountable to their employee constituency?

If I Were Solomon

Solomon was supposed to be a very wise king who when faced with what were seemingly impossible decisions still managed to get a solution that resolved the matter for both parties in a logical, fair, and understandable way.  So, how would Solomon respond.  Cappelli in his response says that the U.S. government is stepping in to protect employees while HR is being dismantled and rebuilt as a strategic ally for the shareholders.  I think, this is somewhat true and also agree with Cappelli when he says this is a weak way in which to try to replace local HR advocacy for employees.  Back to Solomon, just like the story of the two women who came before Solomon to have him resolve their mutual claim over one baby, if we are to rebuild HR we also have to reinstate organizational support for Human Capital.  What I think we are looking at is a need for a “C” level Human Capital executive position that faces the challenges of communication, talent management, and alignment of Human Capital toward the strategies of the organization and we need a “C” level executive who is accountable for employee development, learning, systems, and support.  Instead of tearing down HR it needs to be expanded to acknowledge the importance of both aspect of the Human Capital needs for alignment and for support.

What do you think?

by Michael A. Sacco – MBA, SHRM-SCP, SPHR

© 2015 Stratalyne Business Solutions LLC


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