Split HR? Solomon Speaks

Ram Charan proposes an idea that some of you have already had. HR fails to do what the organization really needs.  The solution: split it.

How many times have you heard employees or leaders complain about HR. That’s right. Often. It’s an uphill battle if you are one of those HR people, trying to be all things to all people.The tension between HR’s operational and developmental charter has been growing. And developing HR business partners, a part of the solution, has not consistently been matched what they deliver. But hey suffer the same drawing-and-quartering as their leaders, pulled by competing tactical objectives, fire-fighting, and responsibility for big programs that uniformly dissatisfy everyone.  Peformance reviews, anyone?  Compensation equity, maybe?

At lunch with a VP HR recently, he recounted a story from an HR conference. The panel discussion was about “getting a seat at the table for HR.” Again.  Someone stood up and said, roughly, “If you’re talking about getting a seat at the table, you’re not going to get a seat at the table. This is business. The seat is for business people.” Sounds like he’d been there and done that before.

HR: Fail or Pragmatic Adaptation?

It looks like there’s an important assumption in Charan’s column: Some HR people do not get enough about the business to play a strategic leadership role. And they are not going to develop into people who get it.

His solution is to acknowledge and organize for what works: on one hand, a tactical, operational HR reporting into the CFO, who is in a position to measure the desired impact; on the other, a future-oriented, strategic HR focused on talent management, leadership, succession and organizational development. You can already see who has a seat at the table.

What do you think?

  • Can HR learn to “get the business” and lead?
  • Why haven’t we done a better job at it in the last two decades?

Stipulated: There are many good exceptions to this generalization. See Libby Sartain’s great counterpoint that points to the inter-relationship among the administration of programs and strategic objectives. And plenty of other commenters say that their minds have not been changed about HR’s potential.

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