HR as a profession takes onto itself too much responsibility (angst?) for the management of human resources. This is misplaced – management of people is the job of managers. If managers were perfect at it (or if people were actually robots) there would be little need for HR Professionals. A true HR Professional should be trying to work himself out of a job.

I recently participated on a panel presenting to a human resources group on the topic: HR as Strategic Partner. But I opened my remarks with the statement, HR was an unnecessary function in organizations.

It’s not the first time.

I usually start my opening lecture in Organization Behaviour (principally aimed at Human Resources Professionals) with a similar statement. The intention is to ‘shock’, or at least get their attention.

Here is the thrust of the argument.

We start with a definition of Organization:

“Groups of people who work interdependently toward some purpose.”

We can then proceed to dissect that definition, discussing the significance of each key word: groups, people, working, together, purpose.

For the sake of this discussion though, I focus only on the word people.
If organizations were comprised only of robots instead of people (save perhaps the ‘Director’), we would have little need of Human Resources as a professional function, (however, we would need mechanics and programmers to keep the robots functioning).

But of course we don’t have organizations comprised only of robots – though increasingly robots have replaced people in many functions in organizations, and a good thing too!

Now for a definition of Organization Behaviour:”

“What people think, feel and do, in and around organizations.”

For the most part we only want people to behave; i.e., simply do what they are instructed to do, rather like robots. And if this were the case, we wouldn’t have much need of Human Resources.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your point of view, people have a way of thinking and feeling, and this affects what they do.

Now if managers had perfect knowledge of Organization Behaviour Theory (or at least took my course!) they would be able to manage people very much better than they do now. And if this were the case there wouldn’t be much need of Human Resources. (Well, except perhaps in the very broad case of doing research, collecting market survey information, and writing policy.)

Since managers, and executives, are not very knowledgeable in OB Theory, they need a lot of help and so HR is a redundant profession in theory only!

Still, the goal of HR Professionals should be to educate managers so they can ultimately make themselves redundant.

Indeed, this is also the case for Executive Coaches.