Human resources gets a lot of flak from other departments in the company. Much of the good they do (administering benefits, for example) is invisible, while their less enjoyable duties (handing out pink slips) are right out in the open for all to see. Recently, a few companies have done away with HR altogether, replacing some functions with software that automates payroll and benefits, etc. But are workers really better off without an HR department?
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Upper management might like it, at least for a while. It’s a money saver, for one thing, and as a recent Wall Street Journal article points out, an HR-less company appeals to companies with “flat hierarchies.”
“Executives say the traditional HR department — which claims dominion over everything from hiring and firing to maintaining workplace diversity — stifles innovation and bogs down businesses with inefficient policies and processes,” write Lauren Weber and Rachel Feintzeig.
The problem with doing away with HR altogether is that there’s no one single point of contact for all the things recruiters, administrators, and HR managers do every day. Software might be able to manage payroll, but it doesn’t do a very good job of mediating disputes or helping a sick employee find a specialist who takes the company insurance.
Weber and Feintzeig interviewed people at companies where some of these functions are handled by “concierges,” who do things like help workers sign up for mentoring sessions or pick up birthday gifts for workers’ spouses. But it seems that most of the companies they looked at have parceled out the various duties of the former HR department to managers and workers.
Maybe that’s the biggest reason to hope your employer doesn’t do away with HR: some of those duties are likely to wind up making their way into your job description. In an era when time is money and both are in short supply, it’s hard to think of where overworked employees will find time to add another job to their already packed schedule.
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