Yes, the title sounds weird, I'm ok with that. What I am not "ok" with is the fact that a lot of HR business is actually not helping the "business" at all and - therefore - should be better referred to as "HR overhead" with *zero* added value. Sure, there is compensation and benefits, payroll and legal matters that are absolutely necessary. However, these items will increasingly be outsourced in the future. Actually, I personally know HR managers who effectively made a career out of decimating their own teams and showing the board how much they saved bottom-line. Are these people really concerned about the HR profession? Doubtful. Did they resonate with the board by proving their ability of cut costs? Absolutely.
Cutting costs is easy: let's move on to the hard parts now
I was still in college when I saw an entire crowd of (non-HR) executives go wild when a (famous - or should I use the word "notorious"?) "happiness manager" boasted how she saved the organization millions of Euros by turning individual offices into office landscapes, allowing people to work from home (using their own printers, extending the life of office furniture) and cutting a number of benefits. To my amazement I saw how several executives offered her a job before the presentation came to a close.
Giving this display of HR bravado a long and hard thought I came to the conclusion that one could make a career in the field by cutting costs even further. Why not turn off the heating and promote sweaters as a "green initiative"? Why keep people working on payroll and the like if they can be outsourced or replaced by a digital system? Why keep in-house recruiters if an agency or (a computer) can do it for us?
What I want to say is that clearly, organizations - even government agencies - are increasingly competing with each other in order to survive. The mechanisms are astonishingly simple really: increase revenue or cut costs. Only part of increasing revenue hits bottom-line results. A more direct way is to cut costs. Therefore, HR leaders - traditionally at the helm of a service considered overhead - make themselves popular by self-cannibalism. A proven short-term success strategy that does not "add" anything valuable in the long term.
Now that I cooled down I will gladly share my point
Currently I am working at a fast-growing tech company in the San Francisco bay area. No, not Silicon Valley, increasingly the action happens "in the city" instead of a boring overpriced plot of land where no man/woman roams the streets after you left the organizational campus. That said, today I was looking into a set of tools that people (at different levels including the organization, the team, the individual) can use to optimize and track their performance. While I was talking to someone from the sales team it struck me that HR has been understaffed. This has been apparent in their lack of time to actually speak to people. This resulted in ignorance about what different teams are doing and how they are tracking their productivity. For sales in particular increased productivity comes down to more and better deals, as such increasing revenue. But due to understaffing HR acts as a buyer, choosing between numerous OKR (Objectives & Key Results) platform providers as if it were a kid in the candy store. Months ago a (rather expensive) tool was launched. People did not use it. HR had spent money without any visual return. Why? Because the emphasis was on the tool and the number of features it had and how much more awesome in looked in comparison with other tools. Ok, so what was the problem? HR did not understand that sales was already using salesforce to set goals, making another tool completely redundant. It made me think: maybe we have to rethink HR, consider the people working there as "productivity engineers", who might want to learn skills by being humble and learning from others. Only by thinking how they can help others to increase their productivity, they can themselves add value instead of giving the head of HR a short moment of fame by decimating its own ranks. The magic word: productivity engineer, not "happiness manager" or "human resources professional".
Blogging away about my PhD. My goal is to keep you up to date about the progress made in my research. Stay tuned for more news and feel free to interact and comment.