"It's Time to 'Blow up HR,'" or Is it HR's Time to Thrive?

June 29, 2015

"It's Time to 'Blow up HR,'" or Is it HR's Time to Thrive?

The fireworks are in the air as we are approaching July 4th, the day of American Independence. Coincidentally, HBR came out with a splashy issue headlined, "It's Time to 'Blow up HR." A familiar triumvirate of HR opinion makers—Peter Cappelli, John Boudreau, and Ram Charan—joined by management consultants Dominic Barton, global managing director of McKinsey & Co., and Dennis Carey, the vice chairman of Korn Ferry present a series of three articles outlining what needs to be done to move the HR Function to the strategic level its mission warrants.


Despite the fiery title the overall message is sober and pragmatic. All three authors see HR taking on a much more strategic role in companies. In fact, a dream team of CEO, CFO, and CHRO is deemed to be best positioned to make well-balanced strategic business decisions. Peter Cappelli sees HR bringing to the table "the long view back into organizations." What emerging needs do they point to? How do those needs map to the organization's talent pipeline and practices? Which capabilities need shoring up?


Of particular interest to me is the question that John Boudreau raises along with Steven Rice, former CHRO of Juniper networks, regarding balancing HR innovation and operational realities that "requires walking a fine line." Innovative ideas often come from unexpected quarters, i.e. from popular sources, media, contingent practices. The HR challenge is such that if you "embrace too many of these ... or apply them too superficially," you'll be merely fad surfing. The authors recommend, "digging beneath the surface to the fundamental scientific research and insights, and you can set the stage for true impact."


I'm at the SHRM 2015 Conference now, and anticipate that some of these discussions will take place in the conference rooms, hallways, and over coffee here in Las Vegas


Despite HBR's deliberately provocative headline, it is a fantastic time to be in HR. The profession is hungry for innovation and there are quite a few of us who are willing and ready.

The Authors: 

Anna A. Tavis, Ph.D., is executive editor of the People + Strategy journal and an adjunct graduate professor at New York University. She can be reached at editor@hrps.org or http://annatavis.com.