Split HR? Rethinking HR’s Role Within Larger Organizations

We all know that HR is at a crossroads. One of the hottest topics being discussed at the C-suite level is whether HR should be split into two distinct functions – one that handles administration and one that manages leadership and organization. A recent article by business advisor Ram Charan in the Harvard Business Review took this position, igniting a debate that had long been smoldering. Charan, an advisor to CEOs, said this:

“I talk with CEOs across the globe who are disappointed in their HR people. They would like to be able to use their chief human resource officers (CHROs) the way they use their CFOs—as sounding boards and trusted partners—and rely on their skills in linking people and numbers to diagnose weaknesses and strengths in the organization, find the right fit between employees and jobs, and advise on the talent implications of the company’s strategy.”

Others have come forward and taken a different tack. Cathy Benko and Erika Volini from Deloitte Consulting offered a counterpoint in a subsequent article. They focused on the role of the CHRO, and compared it to the change that the role of CFO underwent in the 1980s, from “corporate bean counter” to a CEO’s chief partner in driving strategy. They agree that HR needs to be fixed, but argue that it needs to evolve, with extensive reskilling of HR, and a new focus for the CHRO.

One thing both viewpoints agree on: HR is mired in administrative tasks like never before.

Research by Bersin by Deloitte (The High Impact HR Organization) supports the basic dysfunction of HR when it is swamped with administrative tasks:

“When this role is implemented poorly, with more focus on administrative duties and taking orders, our research found that it can actually reduce an HR function’s ability to work effectively and efficiently.”

Other findings:

  • Less than 8 percent of HR leaders have confidence that their teams have the skills needed to meet the challenge of today’s global environment and consistently deliver innovative programs that drive business impact.
  • 47 percent of business and HR leaders surveyed said their companies are “weak” on preparing HR to deliver programs aligned with business needs.
  • 50 percent rated their companies as “weak” when it comes to providing innovative solutions and programs.

It’s no wonder there is so much talk about splitting HR – the leadership and organizational part of HR is not getting the full attention of HR, due to the crushing amount of administrative tasks.

One thing that many in the debate seem to ignore is the crucial role of technology and its role in the evolving functions of HR. Technology can scale to certain tasks in a way that humans never can – including HR’s new and complex challenges.

We’ve built our business around this proposition, with a software solution that can bring efficiencies to a complex administrative process that can’t be achieved otherwise. HR needs to leverage this ability, so it can fulfill a critical role in the organization’s business strategy. Splitting HR and retaining a branch solely devoted to administrative tasks is choosing to keep traveling by the horse and wagon when a bullet train is available. HR just needs to get on it.

Todd Owens will be a guest on the Feb. 4 #TChat Show.

About the Author: Todd Owens is the Chief Executive Officer at TalentWise and has been with the company since 2006. He has twice been recognized as a “Superstar for outsourcing innovation in support of HR organizations” by HRO Today magazine.

photo credit: Wolfgang Lonien via photopin cc


TalentWise is a client of TalentCulture and sponsored this post.