What are we, as HR professionals trying to achieve? I had a heated conversation with a friend today, another HR professional, and he used every logical argument at his disposal to convince me that ours is a highly dispensable profession. To be honest, the thought has occured to me quite often too. That HR as a profession requires no specialized skills that a sufficiently evolved line manager could not learn with the most basic coaching and/or reading and some practice. Why, then, do organizations have an HR dept?
The constant complaint line mgrs have about HR is that we do not understand business. A very small example. If I ask you, what does it mean if your attrition rates are higher than the industry average, what would your answer be as an HR professional? How would you view that question? That there is talent shortage, engagement issues, compensation issues--that you will have to turn up the steam or recruitment & selection, building an internal pipeline etc. If your answer has any of these phrases, we as HR have already lost the battle for a seat on the executive board.
Ask a sales guy what it means, he'll tell you that having a sales officer post vacant for a month will mean the loss of Rs XYZ crore value as business, as there's no one to sell. Ask a logistics guy, and he'll tell you that having a planning manager's position vacant for 2 weeks will mean delay & blocks in delivery of goods worth Rs LMN crore and added strain on an already overworked team. The business is looking for tangibles and HR is there to ensure those tangible results are obtained smoothly.
I'm not saying HR as a function is dispensable--the need for HR processes and systems still exists. But not the need for a dedicated set of individuals to perform the job. I say, hand the job back to line, make it a part of their regular targets and allow them time for HR activities. They understand the immediate impact & benefits of retention plans, succession planning and motivating the team, within the context of their business, much better than we do.
HR jobs have been created somewhat the same way as Keynes explained it. Someone in line decided to start digging up a hundred pits everywhere to jumpstart the economy, and HR was established as a function to fill the pits. And now, the pit diggers are so used to the fillers around that they don't want to, maybe even can't, stop digging the pits. The question I ask myself is, how long before the corporate world wakes up and realizes this, and what do we HR professionals do then? Start looking for an alternate vocation, I suppose... writing, maybe- another generalist profile to satisfy the 'generalist' in us.