• The time has come for HR (Human Resources)
departments to call it a day. HR departments
often portray themselves as a valued business
partner for management and staff alike.
However, how can anyone take a department
seriously that refers to people as ‘resources’?
• Nothing matters more to companies than the
people who work there. Companies are nothing
without the right people! And I am sure that not
one, single individual wants to be referred to as a
• So, the first point I want to make is that the name
is wrong: very wrong. It signals to everyone
that this department manages ‘human resources’
in a top-down fashion, i.e. managing humans in a
similar way to other resources such as finance,
property or machines. If departments can’t see
that this is sending out the wrong messages, then
they don’t deserve to be there anyway.
• Another issue is that HR departments are
trying to serve two masters – which, in most
cases, is not very successful. On the one
hand, they are there to provide support for
the employees and, on the other hand, they
are there for the company and the senior
management to help manage (and
monitor, discipline, appraise, etc.) employees.
This conflict of interest can cause friction and
in many instances HR departments swing to
the ‘support the company’ side, rather than
the ‘support the employees’ side.
• There is more. We can argue about whether
the name is right or wrong, or whether the
focus should be on the company or on the
employees, but what really matters is whether
HR delivers value. I have recently seen a
number of companies that shut their HR
departments down completely; outsourced
the function or reduced it to a minimum.
• The reason they have done it, and not
suffered any significant throw-back, is because
HR wasn’t delivering any real value. Most of
their time was taken up with bureaucratic and
administrative tasks or legal issues. If HR
doesn’t deliver some unique benefits then
outsourcing it makes a lot of business sense
• Three years ago, Toronto-based G
Adventures held a funeral for its human
• "We had a company function where I put up
crossbones and skull with the title 'Death of
HR,' " says Bruce Poon Tip, founder of the
adventure-travel company, which employs
• Poon Tip took the drastic action after
spending a year looking for a veteran of the
field tobecome vice president of human
resources, which would have been a new
position overseeing the five-person
department. He received 600 rèsumès and
spent months interviewing candidates.
• "Every meeting I had, I couldn't wait for it to
end," he says. "It seemed like HR was the art
of oppression. I knew I didn't want that in my
• The debate over HR's shifting function and
format continues, but it is apparent that as
executives shift their corporate priorities, HR
is following suit. Some companies have
chosen to outsource their HR functions;
others have shifted responsibilities to frontline managers in efforts to transform HR
leaders into business leaders; and some, like G
Adventures, have no HR department
• Poon Tip moved administrative tasks into the
finance department and created two new
departments. The so-called "talent agency"
focuses on recruiting and talent management.
The "culture club," where everyone has the
title "karma chameleon"—named after the hit
1980s song sung by Boy George—organizes
everything from fundraisers for the company's
nonprofit foundation to holding celebrations
whenever G Adventures wins an award.
• Poon Tip's approach wouldn't work for many
organizations, but a growing number of
companies are reimagining their HR structures
along with who executes their people
strategies. Almost 45 percent of organizations
indicated that they will change their HR
structure by the end of 2014, according to
Towers Watson & Co.'s 2012 HR Service
Delivery Survey, up from 28 percent in the
previous year's survey.