*I rearranged the chapters after I did the videos so the video says Chapter 3 but it’s going to be Chapter 5 in my book, NakedHR-the 7 Deadly Sins of HR.
The modern Human Resources function has its origins in the late 19th century when companies needed a department to allocate workers (resources) on the assembly lines to produce products. In the early 1900s, companies became focused on how to reduce turnover and maximize performance which evolved the personnel departments into HR-1.0. This version of HR would conduct exit interviews and provide management the data. Although it sounds as though the companies were interested in the data to retain great employees, it was more about how to keep unions out. According to Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the Wharton School and the director of the Center for Human Resources, “By the 1930s human resources started to become and be seen as advocates for employees and the reason for that, frankly, was because companies were trying to keep unions out.”
It was the introduction of workplace regulations including EEOC, Civil Rights Acts and others in the latter half of the 20th century that caused a shift into more of the HR we know today. Added to the list of responsibilities now included employee relations, managing risks, benefits, onboarding and much more. To further complicate the true focus of HR, the Supreme Court mandated in 1998 employees seeking legal recourse would have to first file harassment complaints with the HR departments. HR was tasked as the gatekeeper and the mandate forced the industry to become more of a compliance and risk cop versus a department to represent and advocate for the employees of a firm.
It is understandable how any HR professional can have conflicted allegiances. In small to medium sized companies, HR executives usually report directly to the CEO and have more day to day interaction with the C-Suite than it does with the employees. Even in the larger corporations, HR professionals tend to work more with executive and middle management than the employees who report to them. I can see how many of us would naturally align ourselves more with the executives whose primary focus and responsibility is to protect the organization.
There is an inherent danger with this unbalanced alignment that I discuss in the my book NakedHR-the 7 Deadly Sins of HR. (Although I had the hardest time writing this chapter.)
If you’d like to learn more about my book, click here to watch the summary video and order your copy on Lulu or Amazon!