Are HR Departments Becoming Obsolete? What HR Professionals Need to Know

Posted  | 0 Comment(s)  |  by Elaine Varelas, Keystone Partners

Is Human Resources as we know it becoming a thing of the past? Companies around the country are eschewing traditional HR departments and finding alternative ways to manage hiring, benefits, and other HR functions. What does that mean for HR professionals? If we tell our grandchildren we worked in HR, will they give us the same quizzical look evoked by the rotary phone and Walkman? 

Source: Travis Wise ( are HR departments falling out of favor with some corporations? Many of the traditional tasks of HR, such as payroll and benefits, can easily be offered as web-based, self-service functions or be outsourced to other companies. The historical role of HR as the list keepers, party planners, and rule makers of organizations is a dated concept, and HR teams still focused on these tasks face a clear and present danger of being eliminated.

With technology leveling the playing field for organizations across the board, company leaders are realizing it is their people and culture that set them apart from competitors. As such, there is a renewed focus on talent management strategies. Yet, some leadership teams view traditional HR departments as interfering with the ability to make quick, focused hiring and development decisions.

Many organizations are looking to put these decisions directly into the hands of managers who are “in the trenches” and truly understand what type of person will benefit their team. By removing these key talent decisions from a department in one part of organizations and spreading them out among organizations’ managers, leadership teams are aiming to imbue more ownership in the talent management process and create more nimble, dynamic, and focused hiring practices.

Some blame HR’s imminent demise on the name alone (we can’t keep calling people resources!), and have come up with different titles, like people support team, people analytics team, chief people office, culture chief—or no title at all. However, while the name can reflect the importance of the role within the organization, HR professionals and leadership teams should be less concerned with titles and more focused on how the team is adding value to the company. 

Source: Rob Pongsajapan ( you are an HR professional, don’t lose hope! Before you ready yourself for a career in fast food service, or start working on those graduate school applications, examine your chances for survival. Are you a woolly mammoth or an elephant? Woolly mammoths, as majestic and fearsome as they were when they roamed the earth tens of thousands of years ago, became extinct. Elephants, a species closely related to the woolly mammoth, survived the evolution process. HR professionals may take a cue from modern day elephants, and shed the fat and fur to survive. How do you need to evolve to stay in your career and provide value and leadership to your organization?

It is time for an honest assessment. What does your HR team do? Are you stuck in the past coordinating pay checks and vacation schedules? Are you heading up the talent management strategies of your organization? Perhaps you are doing a bit of both? Another important question is, what does the leadership team think you do? It is not enough that you believe your role has evolved in the organization. There must also be recognition and buy in from the executive suite. 

HR professionals of the future must be strategic partners, and a vital part of leadership teams. They must be able to provide a talent management vision and plan with the capability to help the organization achieve its goals. This involves assessing current talent—and how to develop them—to meet the future needs of the organization. It also requires a global view that encompasses recruiting and hiring those who do not already work with the company. The good news is that many HR professionals are already doing this at their organizations. 

HR professionals are also the ideal leaders to take charge of efforts to sprinkle talent management decisions throughout the organization. They can train and support managers so they feel confident in making hiring and development decisions that will strengthen their teams. In fact, managers play a vital role in carrying out HR’s talent management vision and plan. The HR team cannot do it alone. However, they can provide a global outlook and consistent vision, as well as help managers stay true to the organizational culture and messaging. HR professionals can develop these skills and expertise in managers throughout the organization to create a more holistic, dynamic, and cohesive approach.   

Letting go of the comfortable past and embracing the future is a necessary step in the evolution process. Heading up the talent management strategies at an organization forces HR professionals into the forefront. For many who believed HR to be a behind-the-scenes career choice, center stage can seem daunting. Yet, to be effective in this evolved role, HR professionals must be bold risk-takers, and even push back to leadership when necessary. It is in this role that HR professionals will become trusted partners, providing the most value to the organization and the most job security. 

Elaine Varelas, Managing Partner of Career Partners International - Boston, has over 20 years experience in career consulting and coaching development. She has expertise in successfully resolving complex career management issues, including workforce planning, redeployment and multi-site restructurings. Elaine's experience spans a broad range of industries and businesses, including Fortune 500 companies, start-up ventures and not-for-profit organizations.

Career Partners International provides top quality talent management services to organizations of all sizes. Their offices around the world help assessengagedevelop, and transition talent in any industry. To find out more about Career Partners International and how you can maximize your organizational performance, reach out to an office near you or contact us today!

Bookmark and Share


  1. There are no comments yet.

Leave a Comment