Why We Shouldn’t Discard HR Departments

With over 650,000 views, 3,500 comments and 5,000 likes, Bernard Marr’s LinkedIn article Why We No Longer Need HR Departments certainly sparked an intriguing debate on the subject of HR. This article explores Bernard Marr's article, and illustrates how an HR department can add value to an organisation.

Bernard Marr: Why We No Longer Need HR Departments

With over 650,000 views, 3,500 comments and 5,000 likes, Bernard Marr’s LinkedIn article Why We No Longer Need HR Departments certainly sparked an intriguing debate on the subject of HR.

So what did Bernard Marr’s article say? To summarise his arguments:

  • The name HR is wrong, and signifies top-down management
  • HR departments are unsuccessfully trying to serve 2 masters (senior management and employees)
  • Traditional HR departments should consider splitting into two teams: a people analytics’ team and a people support team.
  • What really matters, is the question of if HR delivers values or not

So how does an organisation that predominantly works with HR, feel about the Bernard Marr’s arguments?

5 ways HR can modernise organisations

Rather than respond to the article myself, I decided to discuss it with our HR department over coffee. With over 15 years of experience between them, I felt that they would have the most valuable input. What transcribed in our conversation is perhaps surprising to some.

The Role of HR

Instead of launching into a staunch defense of HR and disagreeing with Bernard Marr, both of my colleagues agreed with the majority of Mr. Marr’s arguments. They discussed with me at length how the once rigid role of HR has transformed into a more flexible one, how the name HR is probably not the best, and that the changing nature of today’s workforce requires a more flexible HR department. Additionally, they were more than positive at the prospect of outsourcing administrative tasks!

The conversation then moved onto the role of HR. What did my colleagues, as people working in an HR department, view the role of HR as? Both agreed on three main points:

 1. Protecting and building the culture of the organisation
 2. Gauging the needs of employees
 3. Listening to the needs of the organisation

Whilst Bernard Marr’s article touches briefly upon the above points, I would like to provide a practical example that illustrates how adopting the above 3 points as a focus for HR, can add significant value to an organisation.

Adding Value

Some time ago our organisation went through a significant change, from a managerial organisation, to a self-managing one. The shift in structure was not in response to new ways of thinking, but from listening to and gauging the needs of the employees.  In doing this, the HR department also listened to the needs of the organisation. The organisation needed to evolve to keep being competitive, and to do so, they needed the best environment for their employees.

Furthermore, by enacting points 2 and 3, the HR department also ensured a unique work culture (which both the employees and organisation were happy with) and additionally, ensured a solid foundation for the work culture of the future.

In doing what they saw the role of HR as, our HR department ensured the transition of the organisation and without question, illustrated their added value. I can only speak from experience and the experience of those around me, but I would argue that if HR departments are given the freedom to focus on the above, they would not only illustrate their irreplaceable value but there would be very few people that could argue that we no longer need them.