Taking the 'H' Out of HR

You’ll know that the efficiency drive that is called “self-service” in corporations around the globe will have reached its ultimate course when you walk into your human resources department and find only a telephone on the counter. You’ll pick it up and, of course, get a hierarchy of choices to make by voice or keypad response.



You’ll know that the efficiency drive that is called “self-service” in corporations around the globe will have reached its ultimate course when you walk into your human resources department and find only a telephone on the counter. You’ll pick it up and, of course, get a hierarchy of choices to make by voice or keypad response. And you’ll wind up talking – maybe -- to someone in Phoenix or Mumbai or Krakow, depending perhaps on whether your question has to do with medical benefits, payroll or flextime work policies. In the past seven or eight years the effort to “revitalize” HR processes has become an unstoppable force. The employee now fills out forms online, alone. And tries to sort through a panoply of Web sites for answers to different questions – while trying to keep track of a slew of different passwords. (Which of course is good for the vendor of password management software). The original mission to get rid of paper has gone as far as ending the delivery of that most basic of affirmations that an employee has value to a company. “Paper-based” paychecks are among the reassuring items being swept away. The idea is to let HR managers to lead a company's ongoing war for talent. But even that can be jobbed out, to a talent management suite of outsourced services. As time goes on, it too often seems as if the main purpose of this efficiency drive is to take the “human” out of human resources. Make it possible for a handful of human resources executives to be on hand for hundreds or thousands of employees. Those that are still around have to be good – really good – because they have to serve so many humans with questions and needs that affect both their daily lives and their careers. And the strategic interests of their companies in managing talent. As Boston Scientific’s HR VP, Nick Messerschmidt, said in 2002, as the self-service movement got under way: "Our goal for HR is to move away form laborious, manual processes and provide employees with a dynamic self-service solution. Web browsers and employee portals free up HR employees to add real value to their companies by doing what they need to do--acting as high-level consultants to employees." True? How human is your human resources department at this point?

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