Guest Post by Abdus Samad Khan
In response to Wali Zahid’s post It’s time to say goodbye to HR Department
A few months ago I came across a blog post titled “It’s time to say Goodbye to HR” by the lively Wali Zahid.
Apparently what had happened was that he predicted, to the horror of the HR community that “it’s over” for the HR Dept at the Pakistan Chapter of the SHRM USA Conference held in Karachi some time last year.
He even put up a meme suggesting the same and if there is a meme about it on Facebook; it really does mean the end.
He believes that technology and outsourcing will take most functions which are currently under HR. Some HR tasks will go to line functions and very little will be left for the remaining HR before the HR as a function will disappear.
Wali’s recent primary citation is Ram Charan’s blog post “it’s time to split HR” published in the HBR’s July-August 2014 issue suggests the abolition of the CHRO all together and splitting HR into HR-Administration (CB, HR Ops) reporting to CFO and HR-Leadership & Organization (OD, L&D) reporting to the CEO.
Charan builds his case around the ineffectiveness of the CHRO and his/her lack of understanding of business, and at the same time suggests the CFO needs to view Human Resource as an asset rather than an expense.
I believe that the HR function and its professionals are being judged a little too critically in the above assessment. Here is why:
HR was created as a function to present a softer face of Management to the trade unions during the Nixon and Thatcher eras back in the 80’s, large companies spread globally dealing with Labour laws adopted this humanistic approach like a charm. Since then HR has gradually grown from being merely administrative function to participating in everyday business and eventually to global business success.
Recently, technology is responsible for completely disrupting the way companies do business. It has seen a meteoric rise of macho tech companies blowing everything in their path, our social interactions, making payments, hiring taxi cabs, booking flights, eating food, everything is evolving, it’s not the same anymore. And it is from these corners the chants of “The End of Days” for HR are the loudest.
Technology companies, however, can afford to challenge the status-quo with the raw power of, you guessed it, technology. Google, e.g. has the most elaborate Human Analytics mechanism in place currently, this eliminates so many HR line functions which were run conventionally not so long ago. Such sophisticated systems (see picture above) allow Tech-Companies to claim that they won’t be needing HR in its current shape, but so many other companies don’t have that, secondly other companies in different businesses don’t operate like Tech-Companies do, their culture is very different and are nowhere near as innovative or as fast paced.
Many technology companies are under a continuous threat of a disruptive technology which will eradicate their bottom line not in years like Xerox but in months. There is no point of having top-heavy HR Depts. at ambitious start-ups. But the rules that apply to Tech-companies are not universal.
Question is will Global Operations of large scale Manufacturing, FMCGs, Financial Services, Construction, Automobile, Telecommunication, Pharmaceutical, and many more be able to relate and follow suit of the Tech-companies? If yes, will these sectors be able to coup-up with such drastic changes? Will they be able to manage large diverse and efficient work forces across offices? How will HR and business re-synergies in their new roles? These are just some of the questions needed to be answered before saying goodbye to HR.
In Mar, 2014 the Hay Group has published a study titled; On the Cusp of Change: The future of HR. THG identifies 6 mega trends of HR for the future, and defines a roadmap to face up to the challenges while continuously evolving over the next two-decades which may offer some pacification to Wali’s apprehensions about the future of HR. I leave the findings of the study to the readers’ assessment instead of using it as a defense for my case here.
From Pakistan’s perspective, Wali Zahid has certainly blown the whistle on the HR function as it stands today; amplified by the rumblings from CIPD, HBR and Ram Charan. Even Dave Ulrich is worried; it’s time for HR to heed the call of change and adaptability.
As silly as it sounds at the time I write this, we might be even witnessing the birth of an HR “Revolution”. However, these should be considered as exciting times instead of gloom, but is it time to say goodbye to the HR Dept.?
Abdus Samad Khan has grown up playing video games at home, cricket on the streets and watching Swat Kats on TV. Is a complete snob when it comes to his preferences in Aviation, Technology, Movies and Music. He has strong political views and avidly follows all the “nazuk morrs” this great country of Pakistan has taken over the last 20-years. His day job is that of an HR-Professional/Trainer/Educator spanning over six years in Private/Public sectors.