In HR technology, you get pretty used to dealing with HR departments of all types. Proactive, innovative and creators of real business value … and the rest. In the most frustrating of days, we really start to wonder what the world would be like without HR.

Consider this scenario… when you show up for work tomorrow, the HR department has disappeared. Your first thought is:

a.) Holy crap. No one is getting paid and the paperwork will be in disarray

b.) We have an HR department? What do they do?

c.) My business is shot. We can’t get or keep the right people to service our customers and operations.

Some of you chose ‘C,’ and immediately thought of the impact losing HR would have on finding the right talent and keeping your team happy and performing. You may have thought of what this loss would mean for customers, revenue and execution. After all, with your HR team gone, these areas would surely suffer.

If this was your line of thought, great. Clearly your HR department and its goals are aligned with your business. It is playing a strategic role in your organization’s success and is driving real business and shareholder value. Give them tools, resources and a voice.

But …

More likely, your first thought was ‘B,’ or worse ‘A.’ It’s the payroll, benefits and employee paperwork that will fall apart. Necessary tasks but not very strategic for sure.

Unfortunately, this is the norm. This perception exists not only with executives outside of HR but often with HR staff as well: HR as the protector of policy (both sensical and non), keeper of the private paperwork and enforcer of the rules. Are these things important? Maybe. Could it be outsourced cheaper with better results? Probably.

A recent (and unfortunately very true) story comes to mind.

HR Manager: Great presentation. Can you send me a proposal with pricing? We are putting our budget together for next year.

ME: Sure, but I am not sure what we are going to be trying to accomplish together. Let’s have a discussion around the scope and the goals.

HR Manager: I really don’t have time. Can you just give me an estimate? We are looking at a lot of technologies right now and I want to make sure that we get them in the budget.

ME: OK but what are the technologies going to be focused on? What are they going to do for the company?

HR Manager: We are not sure yet. We will figure out the technology first and then figure out what to do with it. But, we need to get it in the budget before we loose it.

What this shows is a fundamental misalignment, an HR department without a clue as to how they can contribute (or even if they should). What a waste for an organization.

How you immediately answered the question on the loss of your HR department will tell you a lot on the value of your HR department. Should you actually dump it? Maybe not, but a thorough re-thinking of its structure, people and goals is probably required.

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