Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Is this Recession a Good Thing for HR?

I just read an article from Workforce Management, titled, HR is Dead...Long Live HR.  (I believe you have to be a member to view).  The article discusses whether or not HR can weather these turbulent times.  I am a  glass half full type of person, so I believe, "YES WE CAN!" to quote our new President.  Sherry Caudron quotes Dave Ulrich regarding how HR will be split into two distinct areas:

1) Transactional and administrative-which is easily outsourced and trending to continue to be outsourced
2) Transformational-Strategic work in areas of culture transformation and performance.  This work is better handled internally so that it is specific to goals and strategy of the organization.

At the end of the day, it is up to us to make sure we can successfully meet our organizations needs in these difficult times.  If we continue to be comfortable in the areas of transactional work then we have to be prepared for a shrinking HR professional population.  (Ulrich predicts the profession to shrink by 25%).  If we like the transformational work and that work is there and very challenging then we just need to DO IT!

As my business partner, Barbara Hughes pointed out, "This situation is not unique to HR." I believe she is right that there are many positions that are trying to prove their value its just that HR has been talking about it for so long.  Caudron agrees: but has a caveat for HR:
"With the unemployment rate hovering around 6 percent, the same thing can be said of many jobs, including information technology, telecommunications, and marketing. But when the economy turns around, people in those positions are likely to find work again. That’s not necessarily true for HR professionals, because the profession is enduring a wave of changes that by all accounts are likely to significantly reduce the number of people needed."
So what do we do?  We are at a major cross roads.  I believe we will weather this storm and here is why:

1) I have been encouraged over the last few months with HR professionals I have worked with as clients.  They are smart, savvy and they have their CEO's ear because they are business people.
2) We have a new generation of HR professionals behind us that are learning from our success and failures.  They are eager and smart.  I believe they come into our profession with a focus on technology and performance.
3) Someone has to make sure the right people are performing to their potential and the organization has the talent it needs short and long term to succeed.  This sounds easy but it is very difficult to do.
4) This transformational job is what  most HR professionals have wanted all their careers.  This recession has just caused us to shut up and execute.  Because of shear necessity, I think we will succeed!

Please comment and tell me your thoughts!
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