The Evolution of HR Function: Are We Truly Changing or Just Repackaging the Old?




Unpacking the HR Evolution Dilemma: Dive into this article to gain insight into the pressing question of whether HR is truly evolving or merely rebranding. Discover why HR’s identity crisis matters to the future of your organization.

In a recent conversation with Otti Vogt and Antoinette Webel, we sat down to talk about the evolution of the HR function. In the ever-evolving landscape of HR filled with ‘new and shiny buzzwords’, a recurring question arises: Are we genuinely evolving or merely repackaging the old?

Over the years, HR professionals have been bombarded with new roles, capabilities, and mindsets they should adopt to stay relevant. However, as MIT professor Thomas Kochan aptly points out, the profession faces a crisis of trust and legitimacy. Despite two decades of efforts to usher in a new era of “strategic human resource management,” the promised gains in status, influence, and achievement have often fallen short.

It’s time to reflect on the path HR is traversing and whether it aligns with its true purpose.

Are We Losing Sight of What Truly Matters?

The pursuit of a seat at the management table can sometimes cloud the fundamental mission of HR: serving the people. In the quest for corporate recognition and influence, HR professionals risk becoming disengaged from the very individuals they are meant to support. This raises the question of whether the field is heading in the right direction or merely prioritizing its own advancement.

Are We Jeopardizing the Essence of HR with Technology and Outsourcing?

The adoption of technology and the outsourcing of HR services have undoubtedly transformed the profession. However, there’s a fine line between evolution and dilution. While embracing technology is essential for efficiency, we must remember that HR is ultimately about people. The risk is that in our eagerness to redefine HR, we may inadvertently erode its core essence – the human touch.

The Myth of Sustainability in Human Capital and High-Performance Practices

HR’s fixation on Human Capital and High-Performance Practices raises important questions. Is the pursuit of these imperatives sustainable in a world increasingly shaped by financialized capitalism? As organizations continue to prioritize shareholder value and profit, the ethical underpinnings of HR risk are being overshadowed. It’s time to reevaluate whether these trendy concepts truly align with the enduring goals of HR.

A Radical Idea: Rethinking HR’s Role

Perhaps it’s time for a radical shift in perspective. Instead of relentlessly pursuing corporate recognition and partnership roles, HR should stand firm against the chaos of the “tyranny of now” and the mantra of “fail fast” agility. In a world filled with crises and uncertainty, HR’s role should be redefined as a guardian of humanity within organizations.

In a world filled with crises and uncertainty, HR’s role should be redefined as a guardian of humanity within organizations.

Embracing Professionalism, Ethics, Reflexivity, and Balance

In an era of constant change, HR should prioritize professionalism, ethics, reflection, and balance. These values can ensure that HR practices align with the broader goals of creating a better Future of Work. HR professionals should strive to uphold the noble spirit of humanity in their daily work, reminding organizations that people remain at the heart of their success.

Looking Beyond the Horizon: The Future of HR

Antoinette, Otti, and hundreds of HR leaders will convene in Amsterdam on November 14-15 for a crucial conversation about the future of HR at the HORIZON SUMMIT. This event is not for the faint-hearted or status-quo enthusiasts. It’s for the brave HR professionals willing to challenge conventional wisdom and seek a path forward that best serves both organizations and their employees.

The evolution of the people function (HR) is an ongoing journey, and it is crucial to periodically pause and reflect on the direction it is taking. While the desire for recognition and transformation is understandable, HR must not lose sight of its primary purpose – serving people within organizations.

Rather than chasing corporate recognition, it is time for HR to embrace professionalism, ethics, reflection, and balance. These values, along with a commitment to humanity, can help HR professionals shape a better future for the world of work.

By participating in open and honest conversations, like the HORIZON SUMMIT, HR can continue to evolve and contribute meaningfully to organizations and society.

Written by: Mihaly Nagy

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