It was quite the coincidence that the NY Times ran an expose on the culture at Amazon.com the day before Strategy+Business posted my column on the need to put more humanity back into our organizations if we are to engage people, unlock their energy and creativity, and bring forth the best in all of us. It is my most shared post to date:
Of course, the issues are real: HR is saddled with a lot of compliance responsibilities, many of which are not of its own making or liking. It can be process-driven and, often, neither employees nor managers find the processes particularly useful. HR is given problems it alone cannot fix, such as improving an organization’s culture or softening a CEO with low emotional intelligence. (Please let me never see a senior executive scooping ice cream for the “little people” ever again. Those who are good with people don’t need to do it and those who are not simply look silly and uncomfortable.) Worst of all, HR executives can be given the task of maintaining the façade of a benevolent organization when the power rests with people who are focused on cutting costs and minimizing head count in order to boost short-term results.
Given those circumstances, HR doesn’t stand a chance. But obliterating it won’t work either — some other function will inevitably get stuck with the dirty work. It is not about the what; it is about the why.