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The Generalist Supervising the Specialist - The HR Reform That is Needed

Here is the thing, we know HR must change but nobody knows how. HR suffers from an identity crisis and it is painful to watch.


Over the decades they have become the "Jack of all trades" or "Ken can fix it all" or a "Half-a-job Harry" that starts but never finishes anything kinda of the department and they do nothing really well. They are the masters of none' they can do a quick fix patch up on most things but how much deep and lasting impact is being created by this? Is your culture, people processes, hiring costs and retention significantly improved or just patched up until they eventually fail all together?

Do we need to get rid of them? No, I have a plan for them keep reading.


Do I blame them? In parts yes, because if they ever had an idea what they stood for they wouldn't be here! Just like every specialised expert under their "supervision" which takes me to the point I want to make.


HR is too general for it to matter and I really don't see their role in their current form apart from companies trying to save money on their reduced headcount and by dumping everything on them. The result? Well, we know it. I am actually sorry for HR. They have an impossible job to do.

Every function HR "supervises" is specialised. How can you supervise a specialised function with your generic background? No HR boss of mine ever knew what I do in talent development nor could even question the methods. So how can you be my boss?


Just look at this picture (link to the article and what they mean) and you realise the mess we have created by adding more and more this department with less and less outcome.

  • HR Planning - Finance does the headcount planning and as for the planning of what kind of people the organisation needs in the future that must come from the departments not from HR. Imagine HR telling me as an IT person what kind of technological development my field is going through hence the type of people I need. Please!

  • Recruitment and Selection - You need a recruitment specialist who looks after onboarding and offboarding, EVP and works together with marketing to attract talent.

  • Performance Management - You need specialists and organisational psychologists who understand motivation, psychometric measurement, organisational design and competency planning for the future. This area must be completely relooked at though.

  • Learning/Talent & Development - You definitely need specialised people to develop your workforce because the ex-HR clerk who is also the PA to the manager and now looks after L&D will not cut it!

  • Career Planning - What? Give that to L&D. If you hire competent people they will know how to do this based on career paths.

  • Function Evaluation - Now this is just nonsense.

  • Rewards - Compensation, Rewards & Benefits specialist. These guys are highly specialised in that field, they are experts! Let them run payroll and all related matters.

  • Industrial Relation - Highly specialised and competent Employee Relations roles, lawyers, and arbitrators that work together with all stakeholders managing relationships including disciplinary processes. My ex HRD couldn't even run an investigation according to her own policy:-))

  • Employee Participation and Communication - Another nonsense!

  • Health & Safety - These are certified and qualified people in a separate department. Definitely has nothing to do with HR!

  • Wellbeing - Experts look after wellbeing as this is a highly specialised field if done well and not only providing breathing exercises, yoga classes or yoghurt in the canteen and call it wellbeing.

  • Administrative Responsibilities - Each function can look after its own admin. Another nonsense!

Now, where does that leave HR? I know you will find things like ok who is going to write policies and job descriptions etc... But just look at the functions. That is their job! HR as such doesn't exist if you look at it that way because they have nothing else to do. Each area of employment is looked after by specialists who are experts in their field, are up to date with changes, adjust accordingly, work together with other areas/functions and evolve together.


So what should we do with HR? I say turn them into Employee Experience (EE) experts. Get their noses out of these specialised functions, instead, ask them work together with them by collecting employee experience data related to each function and work out solutions that shape employees' experiences in line with organisational needs. They can all report directly to the senior leader and lobby for resources. Why do we have HR to represent them all when HR has no clue about what they do???


Maybe that way, we can say that HR or EE is there to look after the employees and the business. Or, train them in one of these specialist areas but don't leave them being generalists.


Because guess what? You get to decide how employees experience you!


If you need our help to make this happen in your organisation let us know.


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