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Why HR Is Far From Extinct

Via LinkedInHR is having a 50-year-old identity crisis. Born out of the personnel management world in the 1960s, Human Resources has struggled from the early days to be seen as a critical strategic partner. And while there are lots of strong, strategic HR superstars, the profession continues to be mocked and undervalued.

For decades, we have loved to hate HR. The bolder backlash started with a Fast Company article in 2005 called “Why We Hate HR”, and ten years later, despite every effort to combat it, many organizations are still unhappy with their HR function, or use it as the scapegoat for all people-related issues.

And now, Harvard Business Review has made Why We Love To Hate HR its summer cover story.

Why can’t HR still get any love from the corporate world? Stereotypes say they are policy-focused, lack basic business knowledge, and are unable to provide the tools leaders need to deliver on their mandates.

Does this mean HR is going to fade away, with people functions simply distributed to front-line leaders and their teams? The internet says it’s possible. (Search “Is HR irrelevant”, and you’ll get over 27 million hits.)

Should we let the HR function disappear? Not a chance. In fact, I think you’re crazy to turn your back on HR. HR teams should be the darling of the corporate world, guiding light to leadership teams, and the secret weapon to successfully launching change initiatives in your organization.

Why? Well, listen up. HR has everything you, fearless leader, need in to be a rock star in your organization. To lead change boldly and create massive amounts of agility, connection and collaboration across your workforce.

HR has at their fingertips all the ingredients for creating the change infrastructure you need – a framework that allows you to move change into your workforce on an ongoing basis, where change is no longer something you do, but a mode you’re in.

Oh sure, you say. Like what?

Here are the key elements to successful organization change you need from HR:

Data. Big data is everywhere. HBR’s report “The Big Data Opportunity for HR and Finance” indicates that HR’s access to data and ability to mine it to make strategic decisions will be critical. Workforce data will help you pinpoint the issues you need to solve, if you hope to get change moving in your organization.

People. Need to know who the key players are who can champion change? Call HR. They know the rock stars, the allies who can provide support, and the adversaries who can send your very best ideas into oblivion with the influence they wield.

Tools. Whether social platforms, learning management systems, or surveys – whatever the tool, HR has experience implementing them, and knows how best to leverage them.

Programs. Whether changing behaviour through training programs, or leading the launch of new initiatives, HR teams are pros at launching “what’s next” for an organization, and how to maximize communication channels to get the word out.

Coaching. Even the most junior HR person has had a call from a manager that starts with “Can you help me solve this problem? Here’s the situation … “ HR has experience providing guidance and coaching support at all levels of your organization.

Still not convinced? Well, I’ll admit, not every HR department has these bases covered, but they have the starting point of the infrastructure you need, and can work with you to build it. If they aren’t delivering across these 5 pillars, push them to up their game in these areas, as they are critical elements to creating an infrastructure that supports moving change quickly into your organization.

Despite having these resources, it is still going to be an uphill battle to change the reputation of the HR profession. Perhaps it’s the “HR” acronym that needs to fade, taking with it the outdated approach of simply managing policies and structures. Some teams are rebranding with titles like “People Operations”; not in name only, but to signal a new approach to looking strategically at people-related activities.

If you need to lead change in your organization (and really, who doesn’t these days?), you need to partner with your HR teams and leverage their capabilities. And if you’re in HR, get out there and market yourself to your leaders as the next big thing. Just be ready to back it up with delivering the goods. You’ve got all the ingredients for maximizing change in organizations, you just need to be ready to own it and deliver.

HR isn’t dying. Far from it. But they’ll need to change the stereotypes that continue to haunt the profession by delivering critical elements for change, and lead the charge in creating the agility, collaboration and engagement their organizations need.

What do you think? Are HR teams doomed to extinction, or gearing up to be the next corporate powerhouse? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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