HR is dead: Marr

by Cameron Edmond20 Nov 2013

In a post on LinkedIn, author and enterprise performance expert Bernard Marr has claimed that HR departments should “call it a day”.

Marr’s criticisms of the department comes primarily from a semantic view, arguing that the term ‘human resources’ is out-dated and signals a top-down management style that lumps humans in with finance, property and machines. “If departments can’t see that this is sending out the wrong messages, then they don’t deserve to be there anyway,” he writes.

Additionally, Marr views HR as having a conflict of interest in that they must support employees while also helping senior management manage, monitor, discipline and appraise employees. As such, he feels that HR will generally opt for one or the other, failing to address both.

“We can argue about whether the name is right or wrong, or whether the focus should be on the company or on the employees, but what really matters is whether HR delivers value,” Marr wrote, adding that organisations have outsourced the function completely or reduced it to a minimum without suffering “any significant throw-back”, due to HR not delivering any real value.

One solution suggested by Marr is the creation of two separate teams: a ‘people analytics team’ to examine people in a scientific manner and provide insights and analytics, and a ‘people support team’ to help employees with development, ensure staff engagement, and identify morale and cultural issues.

Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte, shot back in his own LinkedIn post, arguing that the ability to hire and develop leaders, as well as the growing talent shortage, are areas that can only be addressed by strategic, well trained HR professionals.

“Yes, HR could often be more strategic and more efficient - and certainly more data-driven (only 4% of organizations can do any level of predictive planning), but that's all coming and I for one am rooting for HR to help us transform our businesses for many years to come,” he wrote.


  • by RivercityIR 20/11/2013 1:13:41 PM

    It was an excellent article and hit the nail right on the head. HR has to evolve or get left behind, if they haven't already.

  • by Amanda 20/11/2013 2:50:44 PM

    I found the comment about HR not being able to adequately support employees and the organisation really frustrating. This can be done exceedingly well provided you have good HR professionals. Agree that HR needs to be proactive in adding strategic value - but where is the responsibility of the organisation to support and guide them to deliver the business needs? Also the name 'people support' completely contradicts the idea of a strategic, proactive department and highlights the transactional service provider a lot of people equate HR to be. #endrant

  • by Sylvia Massara 20/11/2013 2:55:36 PM

    I actually freelance for a group of companies as a HR Consultant, and my focus is mainly on compliance. Many a time, I got either the company, or the employee, out of "hot water" by being able to guide them through the somewhat complex world of legislative requirements and compliance.

    As far as I'm concerned, HR contributes greatly to any organisation if they know their compliance, and how to stay neutral between the employee and employer. Amazing how many thousands of dollars I've been able to save companies, and also benefit the employee at the same time, merely because I can work with both sides on a consultative/advisory basis.

    Call it what you will, but HR definitely has a role within the labour market, and whoever disagrees should revisit the complex area of industrial relations and have another think.

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