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The Evolution of HR

The Evolution of HR

I was inspired to tackle this topic after catching a LinkedIn update from a friend who pointed out that in a lately popular trend, GM becomes the fourth corporate behemoth to appoint a new Chief of HR that is not from HR. Interesting move? Maybe not as much as you would think. Let me point out why.

This year has revealed so many challenges for companies of all shapes and sizes. Challenges all focused around external factors. The words of the year: attrition, defection, turnover, layoffs, cutbacks and severances. Put these external factors together with words that encourage fear, uncertainty, and sometimes resentment and you are dealing with a highly flammable situation. Enter the firefighters (Chief of HR, EVP and VP of HR) who are tasked with putting out these fires as well as preventing future ones. Without the correct solutions applied you are dealing with what you get by throwing water on a grease fire. Water usually puts out flames, but not in this case.

What both GM, Danaher, Merck, and Microsoft did is a noble acknowledgment of the evolution of the Human Resources function. HR is an under-appreciated unit in corporations. Still to this day the thought of HR acting as a true consultative internal business partner is more of a wish than a reality (ask those in HR).

  1. In order for HR to be looked upon as an asset instead of an expense there needs to be those at the top that can build the proper team and drive top-down change (NOT) at the expense of company culture. This is why some of the best and brightest, such as Danaher, GM, Merck, and Microsoft have realized the need to appoint individuals that understand the application of formal business acumen only learned theoretically in a higher education setting in order to effectively implement the necessary change tactics that will enable corporations to sustain the tough, external factors they and their employees are dealing with today and into the future.
  2. HR has become siloed over the years. With a lack of cross-pollination with internal business units and exposure to formal business educations, they have become masters of playing in the same HR sandbox. The problem is that the game has moved outside of that box and now more than ever if you don’t have the formal business education attained through a concentrated degree program or an MBA, then you may be on the endangered species list in the near future. To their defense, the last decade has pretty much been business as usual.

Sometimes HR focuses too much attention of the development of their own staff when they should not forget about themselves and what is going on OUTSIDE of their world. They need to invest in themselves as well. All of this doesn’t mean the extinction of traditional HR folks, this just means that change is in the air. Everyone is sensing it, but not everyone has embraced it yet. GM, Danaher, Merck, and Microsoft have…who is next?


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