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Should we really “split” HR?

In 2014, Dr. Ram Charan published an article in Harvard Business Review, “It’s Time to Split HR,” which dropped onto the HR world like a bombshell. In his article, Dr. Charan articulated business leaders’ disappointment with their human resources colleagues, suggesting the department may serve organizations better if split into two functions: administrative, and leadership and organization.

In his argument, Dr. Charan claimed:

“… leaders would like to be able to rely on their HR partners’ skills in linking people and numbers to diagnose weaknesses and strengths in the organization, find the right fit between employees and jobs, and advise on the talent implications of the company’s strategy.”

“Most of HR professionals are process-oriented generalists who have expertise in personnel benefits, compensation, and labor relations, focused on internal matters such as engagement, empowerment, and managing cultural issues.”

“HR professionals don’t know how key decisions are made, and they have great difficulty analyzing why people—or whole parts of the organization—aren’t meeting the business’s performance goals.”

Sadly, I agree with all Dr. Charan’s reasons to “put the field of HR on notice.” During my years in the field, I too have observed HR professionals to be deeply focused on administrative and transactional issues, and not adequately developed to handle more strategic organizational issues.

That said, I still disagree with Dr. Charan’s recommendation to ‘split’ HR. Dividing administration would be like having a separate department that does printing in marketing. What would be the efficiency gain? And how would it make HR leaders and professionals stronger and, as a result, businesses stronger?

I feel we need to think more about the issue at hand. Dr. Charan gives a clear voice to the issue – one we can no longer avoid. Point well taken.

If we want the solution to stick, however, it needs to come from us. Let our voices be heard. We’d love to know your thoughts.


  • 27 June 2016

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Leaders within organizations will need to acknowledge HR as real business partners – engaging them so that they can be of real support. That isn’t happening to date. HR professionals will need to step up and claim to be heard and included.

Friederike Sommer Friederike Sommer says:

I agree, Friederike. Through the consulting work, we see some organizations have made the shift and others not yet. Indeed, the first step is for HR to have a seat at the table. The next step is for HR to prove value then. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

Sesil Pir Sesil Pir says:

Happy employees is the key to success and HR professionals should be the ones to ensure this. So it is not a question, the importance of HR in business. Strong and effective HR professionals should show the good impacts of being really part of the big team 🙂

Your name (optional) says:

Indeed. Thanks for the comment.

Sesil Pir Sesil Pir says:

To me, HR department (people) should be a strong, fixed strategic partner of the organization since they come from the real field of the company, they could easily understand what the employees feel or experience while doing their job. Because they breathe the same internal environment of the company.
From the other standpoint, sometimes, all companies need some external viewpoints since the insiders cannot see the problematic areas since they think everything seems all right.
Shortly, I would like to draw attention that this century is not for the personnel management, it’s anymore HR management which includes absolutely different aspects of management.

Okan Coban says:

Thank you for your comments, Okan. It is great to see we all agree the times are evolving and we need to do differently. Thank you.

Sesil Pir Sesil Pir says:

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