Wednesday, April 29, 2009

As I See It : The Death of HR Function

Human Resources Development ( HR) was a glamorous function. A much sought after specialization in business schools (especially by girls) HR came into limelight with the Software Industry boom in India.

The HR function broke away from the Personnel and Industrial Relations Department ( P&IR) which was later relegated to dealing with Unions and Payrolls. HR became the focal point in organizations and took over the glamorous functions like recruitment,selection and training.

The software boom resulted in a huge demand for talent. Firms began to scout for the scarce talent and retaining talent became the major worry for the top management. Suddenly ,from a mere Staff Function, HR became a strategic function.

Management Gurus began to praise the importance of HR in a firms' strategy. HR professionals were touted to play a major role in the board. When Mohandas Pai of Infosys voluntarily remitted his CFO position to take up the role of Director - HR, everyone thought that HR has come off age.

Since money was not an issue, training was on overdrive. HR made training mandatory for all officials including Chairman and Managing Directors. Even thoughts about corporate universities began to shape up.

Stories began to spread about the lavish perks and mouth-watering work environments. Companies began to compete to build smartest workplaces.Employees were considered vital resources. Firms began to inventory human resources fearing that competitors will grab them. Sometimes employees in the bench exceeded those who are doing real work.

The traditional sector like manufacturing , FMCG and durables also faced issue of retaining talent because talent was moving towards sunrise industries that offered better packages.

Employees tried to take advantage of the talent crunch by transforming themselves into Job Hoppers.Commitment was out of fashion , No Shows became the order of the day.


Recession struck... Markets tumbled, customers stopped buying , panic spread and the dreaded word - Cost Cutting became the Manthra.

Suddenly there was a change in the HR lexicon.

Resource became Expense.
Human Resource became Human Cost - the focal point of Cost Cutting.

Talent Retention became Talent Rationalization.

Sitting on Bench Became Sitting Ducks

Training became a discretionary Expense.

HR became a dreaded function relegated to the difficult task of retrenching people and identifying weeds.

Now no one is talking about talents retention, training ,development.

It is sad that only very few organizations identified and understood the true nature of HR. They are still hiring, retaining and training their employees . For others , HR was just a fashion.

The problem was in numbers. Just like filling sales targets, HR began to fill in the numbers. Blinded by the growth, the Qualitative factors never made sense. The current scenario proves that the HR forecasting models needs to be redefined.

I still don't understand why a person should be recruited if they have no job to do ?

If training is considered to be the key to organizational development, why is that it is cut ?

If HR's job is to recruit the right person for the right job, why are people leaving just for a higher salary ?

When organizations grow in breakneck speed, opening offices at every district and recruiting people enmasse, is it the responsibility of HR to remind the company to go slow ?

The current scenario is a painful lesson for the HR Function and it is a time to redefine the role of HR in organization. The principal role of HR should be to imbibe a culture in an organization that naturally attracts and retain the best talent irrespective of good times and bad times.

Otherwise HR will only be a king of good times.

End Note : I am not a HR professional or an expert in this function , hence I may be wrong in some of the observations. Please give your views as comments.