“HR is dead and hooray for that.”

by |
An award-winning industry professional has spoken out about the state of HR, claiming the function is nearing the end of an era but has something far better on the horizon.

“I think HR is dead and hooray for that,” says Laurent Sylvestre – general manager of people and culture at engineering icon Beca. “HR is dead for something more people-centric."

Earlier this year, Sylvestre was named HR Generalist of the Year by the Human Resources Institute of New Zealand - but could the organisation’s name soon be obsolete?

According to Auckland-based Sylvestre, the human resources function – long ago known as 'personnel’ – is in the midst of yet another major transition. This time, it’s to people and culture.

“There is a need now to connect more with human beings rather than just employees,” he says. “You need to connect with human beings if you want their attention and you want their time.”

Sylvestre says the human resources moniker is a leftover from now outdated attitudes – “When personnel moved into human resources it was late ‘80s early ‘90s and we were at the peak of capitalism,” he says.

“It was all about resources and what type of resources you had so part of HR was management of those resources but very much at the core there was still compliance, administration, making sure the contract would be okay, industrial relations – things like that."

Now, Sylvestre says the industry is seeing a significant shift.

“We’re moving out of that and I think that shouldn’t be done by an HR professional. That should be done by the leader or the manager themselves – it should be the manager that is going to do that job.”

Now, Sylvestre says HR professionals – or rather people and culture professionals – should be concerned with discretionary effort and employee satisfaction.

“We’re not talking about a resource,” he stressed. “A machine is a resource; a human is not a resource. A human is a human and, as part of their life, a human being is going to work so it’s about asking how you make that experience enjoyable?”

More like this:

Employees riot following unpaid wages, layoffs

It takes less than a second to wreck this HR initiative

How HR can foster collaboration at work
 
 
  • Graeme B on 9/05/2016 1:41:05 p.m.

    We’re not talking about a resource,” he stressed. “A machine is a resource; a human is not a resource....."

    Water is not a machine yet is regarded as an extremely valuable resource. The argument is about syntax, and that only challenges it's veracity. People and Culture what? At least the word resource describes the nature of the human component.

    My role as an HR manager encompasses a lot more than humans as a resource - it is the power of humanity in the work place and within society that drives the quality of work / life, experience / balance.

    If a People and Culture person simply wants to know from staff that being at work is an enjoyable experience and how can I enhance that, then I think we have missed a more fundamental driver in humans - called the work ethic.
    An old word coming back into mode. I watched on TV news, about the shortage of plumbers and a large plumbing employer said the problem with young people and apprenticeships was #1 a lack of work ethic. His reference to enjoyment (or lack of) was that he acknowledged the pressure of 6 years training while your builder friend goes on his OE after 4 years; and a lack of willingness to train for so long.
    Maybe an aspect of work is the fulfilment of training and becoming, enjoying being identified as being something/one and then as a human I am resource to my employer and to myself as an enhanced person.

    People and Culture in the work place help define the Human Resource to be such. For P & C to exist on its own simply under classifies humanity per se'.

  • Andrew on 5/05/2016 4:15:48 p.m.

    Fully, one persons agenda on the state of HR...now People and Culture. It may work in certain organisations and where there is a desire to move in a certain direction, however, this is unlikely to be for everyone. It will be up to the organisation to determine the direction and in part the ability to influence and lead the business. There must be willingness to head in this direction or it will end up being the cart leading the horse with little effect and lots of heartache.

  • Andrew on 5/05/2016 4:12:02 p.m.

    Fully, one persons agenda on the state of HR...now People and Culture. It may work in certain organisations and where there is a desire to move in a certain direction, however, this is unlikely to be for everyone. It will be up to the organisation to determine the direction and in part the ability to influence and lead the business. There must be willingness to head in this direction or it will end up being the cart leading the horse with little effect and lots of heartache

  • Paul on 4/05/2016 2:45:08 p.m.

    While it is good to challenge ‘the state of HR’ it can be perilous to do that with so little context.
    Firstly; properly managed HR has never stopped at simply delivering resources and processes. Certainly for the organisations I work with, a singular focus on the practices of the 80's has been dead for a very long time (if it was indeed there in the first place). Secondly basic HR (as has been described) remains an essential step in developing the gravitas and credibility to contribute more widely, and it will remain as one of the cogs in wider and more progressive HR function that includes a more strategic focus on people and culture.

  • Ian Fryer on 4/05/2016 2:42:33 p.m.

    Really one person has a notion and it becomes gospel. Companies need to determine their own terminology and focus for this function.

  • Steve Punter on 4/05/2016 11:45:00 a.m.

    Right... so we are (1) going add to the manager's workload and (2) going to have to train them in HR. I'll be interested to see the outcome of that. As an ER specialist and Advocate, it would mean lots of work for me. Bring it on!

HRM Online forum is the place for positive industry interaction and welcomes your professional and informed opinion.

Name (required)
Comment (required)
By submitting, I agree to the Terms & Conditions