Hammonds makes it very clear that he does not like the Human Resources (HR) department however the purpose of this paper is to differentiate Hammonds opinion about why he does not like HR from important key facts and issues. One of the main issues Hammonds emphasizes about HR is the departments’ lack of involvement with the overarching strategic mission planning of the company. He notes several reasons for this including that HR does not understand business strategy, HR is not concerned with the bottom line of the company but rather more concerned with employee satisfaction, HR is more concerned with preventing litigation and enforcing rules then helping individuals, and finally that HR is too concerned with picnic planning and payrolls which according to Hammond, is not a strategic planning role.
I agree with one of Hammonds primary issues in that many of the functions of HR do not necessarily align directly with strategic planning of the company. Strategic planning involves actions like partnerships with other companies that can increase revenue and company growth. HR on the other hand is responsible for many tasks including managing employee satisfaction, efficiency, and payrolls. One can argue that if employees are not satisfied, then they can become inefficient, thus affecting productivity and then the bottom line, but Hammonds seems to argue that HR is lacking a more direct relationship with the strategic planners of the company. Pynes (2009) supports this notion by saying “Unfortunately, many HRM departments have spent their time ensuring compliance with rules and regulations, so they lack the skills and competencies to act as a strategic partner.” (pg. 34)
Another primary issue I disagree with Hammonds about is that he seems to be blaming the HR department for its lack of involvement with the strategic planning staff. Hammonds argues that companies are outsourcing typical roles of HR staff such as learning and development, payroll, recruiting, and health and welfare.
He notes “The tasks companies are outsourcing—the administrivia’’tend to be what your good at. And whats left isn’t exactly your strong suit.” (Hammonds, 2006 pg. 7) If companies are outsourcing HR tasks to improve or protect their bottom line, then HR should not be blamed if the roles that they are used to doing are now gone. The CEO is ultimately responsible for farming out the HR roles to other companies, so it is also the CEO’s role to then incorporate the HR staff into more strategic roles within the company. Certainly outsourcing HR functions to other companies frees up HR staff to play a more strategic role, but it is the responsibility of the entire management team to ensure that the strategic role is there.
A secondary issue that is of concern is Hammonds claim that “HR isn’t working for you.” (Hammonds 2006, pg. 4) This is not necessarily a true statement in that Hammonds seems to be equating success narrowly with the bottom line. According to Pynes,( 2009) “Human resources management is critical if organizations are to be effective.” Important HR functions such as legal compliance, compensation, pay equity and benefits, training and development, healthcare, performance management and employee relations are integral components to the overarching success of the organization.
Syed and Yan (2012) performed a study about the impact of high performance human resource management practices on employee job satisfaction and determined that “Job satisfaction is a pre-requisite for employee performance in any company.” Although one can argue that there are unsatisfied workers that continue to work at organizations they do not like, by using Syed and Yans rationale, unhappy employees may still go to work, but perform poorly. If employees are not performing to their highest or at least efficient capacity, then the organizations output and thus the bottom line will suffer.
More specifically, Hammonds (2006) notes that “The fear of litigation has pushed HR toward a one size-fits-all” approach to managing the employees.” Pynes (2006) counters this argument by stating “Public and nonprofit agencies must comply with federal, state, and local laws such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor.” (pg. 23) Hammonds seems to argue that it is unfair to treat all people the same, however the argument can easily be made that it is unfair to treat all people differently. Some specific examples of uniformity that Hammonds indicates are negative consequences of HR are benchmarking salaries, functions and jobs against industry standards. Hammonds (2006) indicates that “Making exceptions should be exactly what human resources does, all the time.” (pg. 5)
However the truth of the matter is that because companies are obligated to comply with the law, the cost of making exceptions to the rules by rewarding employees with distinctive performance can easily outweigh the benefits of efficiency through standardization. Hammonds is not indicating that HR should break the law when making exceptions to reward distinctive employees, however for each employee that is rewarded for distinctive performance, his or her peers may feel increasingly unrewarded for what they feel is the same performance. Hammonds is correct to indicate that it is easier to abide by standardization rather than rewarding individual employees based on distinctive performance but does not add that it is also less costly in the face of litigation.
Three ideas/concepts that are critical for the future of the HR profession are that HRM departments must possess a high level of business knowledge, enter into partnerships with managers in order to use that knowledge, and finally be able to demonstrate their value to the organization. Caldwell et. Al (2010) note that an important element to an effective HRD is “A human resource structure focusing on human resource managers as business partners to other departments.” In order to be a better business partner with the strategic leadership of the company, HR managers must come to a better understanding of strategic management, financial statement analysis and customer needs. Hammond concedes that there are HR professional who possess this knowledge and uses Libby Sartain of Yahoo as an example of someone who not only got a strategic seat at “the table”, but instead she built “the table.” While this example shows that the first concept of possessing a high level of business knowledge is possible, according to Hammond, it does not appear to be the norm.
Pynes (2010) addresses the second concept by suggesting that “HRM departments must expand their scope of activities beyond their traditional tasks and functions and enter into partnerships with managers and employees.” (pg. 44) A problem with this according to Nasiri and Zanjani (2012) is that “Human resource managers are faced with an environment that is changing rapidly.” (pg. 4) As many HR systems become more complex such as compensation, benefits, business partnerships and strategies, the challenges to HR become two fold. First, HR must adjust to the rapidly changing environment within their own department, and also learn new skill sets used in the strategic management field. Pynes (2009) supports this notion by stating “Human Resources management must be vertically integrated with strategic planning and horizontally integrated with other HR functions to confront rapidly changing environmental conditions.” (pg. 49)
The last idea that is critical for the future of HR is being able to evaluate and demonstrate their effectiveness to the organization. Pynes (2009) notes that, “To evaluate the effectiveness of SHRM, SHRM audits and HR benchmarking and return on investment (ROI) analysis can be used.” (pg. 46) Audits, benchmarking, and return on investments are important to validate what HR is doing, but identifying what HR must be in the future presents a unique challenge. Currently HR is seen by many as having a support role in the organization. In order to demonstrate a more proactive role, HR must be able to develop and implement proactive programs to address the changing needs of an organization. Audits, benchmarking, and ROI analysis are and will be important for the future of the HR profession, however HR must also have the funding and flexibility in order to better position itself to be a primary partner at the strategic table.
What I found most interesting about this article are the nuances associated with the ever changing environment of HR. One example is that the author seems to blame HR for outsourcing administrative minutiae, and then seems to blame them again when those functional tasks that the staff were good at are removed; thus implying that the skill sets remaining for the HR staff are useless. From a managerial lens Hammonds does not share equal responsibility for what he calls “The marginalization of HR.” (Hammonds, 2009 pg. 7) He indicates that it is “unclear what came first, the marginalization of HR by senior management or the stagnation of the skills of HR professionals.” (Hammonds, 2009 pg. 7) In this statement Hammonds supports the notion that senior management did play a role in the marginalization of HR, but then then titled and ended his article “Why I hate HR.” It does not make sense that Hammonds can agree that senior management played a role in marginalizing HR’s skill sets, and then hate HR for it.
Also, from a managerial lens, HR is not solely to blame for what Hammonds feels is their inability to contribute directly to the bottom line of the organization. It is true that HR must improve their knowledge of business practices such as understanding financial statements, business strategy and customer needs however a structure to integrate this knowledge must be vertically integrated into the organization. If strategic management wants HR to be a driver of the organization, then it is also their responsibility to ensure that there is a seat at the table.
It is not necessarily fair for Hammonds to blame HR for not being a strategic partner, when it is the organizations responsibility to ensure that seat. Ultimately, by improving business knowledge, integrating that knowledge into the overarching strategic plan, and validating that this knowledge is useful and effective are the three ways that HR can not only sustain itself but grow. From a managerial lens, these three practices are what I believe will help HR sustain itself into the future of the organization, and instead of placing the blame solely on HR, Hammonds should be focusing on how to get this done.
Caldwell, C., Truong, D. X., Linh, P. T., & Tuan, A. (2011). Strategic human resource management as ethical stewardship. Journal of Business Ethics, 98(1), 171-182. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-010-0541-y
Nasiri,S., Zanjani,.S. (2012). A Consideration of Human Resource Management Future. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 2(1). Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.metrostate.edu/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA329750483&a
Pynes, J. (2009). Human resources management for public and nonprofit organizations: a strategic approach. 3rd ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Syed, N., & Yan, L. X. (2012). Impact of high performance human resource management practices on employee job satisfaction: Empirical analysis. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, 4(2), 318-342. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.metrostate.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1033050877?accountid=12415