A New Mandate for Human Resources

14 Sep

Should we do away with HR? In recent years,  a number of people who study and write about business – along with many who run business – have been debating that question. The debate arises out of serious and widespread doubts about HR’s contribution to organizational performance. And as much as I like HR people – I have been working in the field as a researcher, professor, and consultant for 20 years – I must agree that there is good reason for HR’s beleaguered reputation. It is often ineffective, incompetent, and costly; in a phrase, it is value sapping. Indeed, if HR were to remain configured as it is today in many companies, I would have to answer the question above with resounding “Yes – abolish the thing!”

But the truth is, HR has never been more necessary. The competitive forces that managers face today and will continue to confront in the future demand organizational excellence. To efforts to achieve such excellent – through a focus on learning, quality, teamwork, and reengineering – are driven by the way organizations get things done and how they threat their people. Those are fundamental HR issues. To state it plainly : achieving organizational excellence must be the work or HR.

The question for senior managers, then, is not Should we do away with HR? But What should we do with HR? The answer is : create an entirely new role and agenda for the field that focuses it not on traditional HR activities, such as staffing and compensation, but on outcomes. HR should not be defined by what it does but by what it delivers – results that enrich organization’s value to customers, investors, and employees.

Dave Ulrich, “A New Mandate for Human Resources”, Harvard Business Review, copyright (c) by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All right reserved.

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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Human Capital


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