work revolution, human resources
What if we replaced HR with the Learning and Growth Department?

John Merrick: I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man! – The Elephant Man

Ever since I started working I’ve heard the term “Human Resource Management,” and every time I hear it I have a John Merrick moment: “I am not a Human Resource. I am a human being!”

Recently, while sitting in a conference room with my friend Joe Stauffacher, I inadvertently, out of habit, spoke it aloud, a la John Merrick.

Joe said, “You should write about that.”

Now is my chance. This week’s top story on LinkedIn is this good (maybe even amazing) article,  Why we no longer need HR departments.

The controversy that ensued after this post was published was quite interesting—as you can probably imagine, it created a s*&t storm of angry and confused Human Resource professionals.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I have love and admiration for Human Resource professionals and happen to know many. I am the first person to recommend a good one when I work with a small business that needs the skills of one.

Those who clearly got their feathers ruffled by the blog post read it as an implication that their work was misunderstood or wasn’t important. There was a lot of effort spent explaining what and why they do what they do—which, in a nutshell, is to understand and create compliance between laws and employers.

Thank goodness. Because someone needs to.

The author, Bernard Marr is an analytics and data guy and he makes the point that the human resource department is on the side of the employer while masquerading as the defender of the people. And that this department, for the most part, doesn’t deliver value. He goes on to say that his recommendation is to create two departments: people analytics’ team and a people support team to be clearer about the functions within the department.

OK, I get it. A little confusing, but he missed the more powerful point:

People are not a resource. People are the reason. <Tweet it!>

Imagine a work revolution that looks like this:

  • A world where every person becomes a contributing partner to the organizations they serve.
  • A world where every person is compensated as a contributing partner and the results they create rather than their time served.
  • A world where the need to comply with laws created in the early 20th century to protect employees from employers becomes obsolete.
  • The war between capital and labor disappears.

Please don’t write me off as a communist quite yet—but what if we could create organizations where values become more important than profits and yet everyone . . . everyone within the organization profits?

Using a capitalist model, how about including everyone in disbursements and eliminate the need for employee to employer intervention?

Do you think I’m crazy?

I started practicing the principles of High Performance and Open Book Management in the ’80’s. Turns out that thousands of companies are now waking up to the possibility of creating companies they would want to work for as I did.

As those kinds of companies grow, the need for laws protecting themselves from or with, will become laughable.

When you are human and not a human resource it is very easy to be better than those laws. And when that happens, we really won’t need a Human Resource Department.

What could we have instead? A Prosperity and Connection Department? A Leadership and Wealth Department? The Learning and Growth Department?

Tell me what you would rather have and then let’s make it happen. From Silicon Valley to a Detroit Renaissance, thousands of companies are starting to do it their own way, far beyond the jaws of compliance.

Call it a Work Revolution: The tolerance for soul sucking jobs is ending, one company at a time.

As we decide to be human beings rather than a resource in the machine, everything will change. Work becomes a source of connection. Work is soulful rather than soul sucking. We won’t need to talk about work/life balance anymore. We can just have life in all its humanness without silos of separation and protection.

I am imagining a vast sea of human creativity and prosperity. I say, let’s stop referring to ourselves and our colleagues as resources. When we do, we can get rid of the human resource department and get on with being human.

How about the Humanity Department?

Ruth Schwartz

Ruth Schwartz is the author of "The Key to the Golden Handcuffs". She is a high performance business consultant and leadership coach. Connect with Ruth to participate in the conversation. Google+, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube .

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