Human resources personnel within organizations are often much loved but sometimes can exude an equal amount of displeasure. This has much to do with the traditional responsibilities of this key function and the ever changing, complex role that it performs today. When you consider the range of possible duties, everything on the continuum from hiring to firing falls under the remit of this function. In fact so much is the diversity of tasks that very often those chosen to lead do not possess the blend of skills necessary to be successful.
A recent Harvard Business Review article suggested that HR should be divided into two categories, one that is Admin focused (benefits, payroll, etc) reporting to the CFO and the other with an emphasis on People (hiring, development, etc.) reporting directly to the CEO. On a very practical level this makes sense as one could argue that “people” leaders are often not good with money while finance leaders are sometimes not good with people. However to accept this argument might also be considered a “cop out” as these two critical business variables are inextricably linked together.
The bigger issue here is the risk associated with the separation of finance and people. It has been shown that organizations, in their vain attempt to please the financial markets, typically take their first swipe at reducing costs via people, whether training (the first thing), changes in pay and benefits, and ultimately elimination of positions. This comes from viewing a business (most often led by finance people) as simply a series of financial transactions. This can be very dangerous and by separating the HR function, as suggested above, only serves to perpetuate this thought process.
People and their costs are an integral part of any organization. Therefore when hiring the most senior HR position one should look at somebody who understands these variables and can make decisions, not as trade-offs, but what is right for the business. People, in the form of employees and customers can wield considerable influence when united, as the recent Market Basket case demonstrated. Let’s not go back in time and give people reason to organize.