Keith H. Hammonds' 2005

Fast Company cover story article "Why We Hate HR" brought attention to and sparked heated debate concerning the his perspective concerning the current state of human resource management as a viable profession. In presenting his view of concerning the value and professional caliber of HR professionals Hammond states "Most HR organizations have ghettoized themselves literally to the brink of obsolescence. They are competent at the administrivia of pay, benefits, and retirement, but companies increasingly are farming those functions out to contractors who can handle such routine tasks at lower expense. What's left is the more important strategic role of raising the reputational and intellectual capital of the company — but HR is, it turns out, uniquely unsuited for that."

Here's why. HR people aren't the sharpest tacks in the box. If you are an ambitious new graduate from a top college or B-school with your eye on a rewarding career in business, your first instinct is not to go into human resources (at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, which arguably boasts the nation's top faculty for organizational issues, just 1.2% of 2004 grads did so). Says a management professor at one leading school: "The best and the brightest don't go into HR."

Who does? Intelligent people, sometimes — but not business people. "HR doesn't tend to hire a lot of independent thinkers or people who stand up as moral compasses," says Garold L. Markle, a longtime human-resources executive at Exxon and Shell Offshore who now runs his own consultancy. "Some are exiles from the corporate mainstream: They've fared poorly in meatier roles — but not poorly enough to be fired. For them, and for their employers, HR represents a relatively low-risk parking spot."

Hammonds' indictment of HR professionals' value and professional caliber raises questions concerning the viability and validity of his positions on these, as well as related, topics.

What do you think?


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