The HRPocalypse?

This is not exactly a "progeeky" post on HR, so forgive the deviation from my usual themes, but it is a post exploring an issue that as troubled me for some time: what the heck is up with HR?

All I hear about HR these days is complaints – at times even from HR professionals.  The complaints are almost always about the fact that when it comes to HR and hiring:

  1. It's too confusing, with laundry lists of needs.
  2. It's too slow because of #1 and because it's harder to find people due to specific needs.
  3. The right people aren't getting hired – at times because you missed them.

(It's so bad, that when I've done job searches, I actually thank HR people that do a good job.  They probably need the feedback and support.)

Yet, at the same time I see companies working efficiently – at times very new companies.  Even if things aren't efficient, their hiring and recruiting does get done, even if processes are jerry-rigged and haphazard.  I've also seen damn good companies like Insperity (formerly Administaff) that do good HR outsourcing.

(Warning, my current employer uses Insperity and the staff I've met are pretty cool, so I'm baised.  Fortunately I don't care.)

So, I see some disastrous HR, and some good HR.  What's going on here?  Why this mix of incompetence, and effectiveness, why the bitterness out there along with  bright spots of success.

Then it struck me.  We may be seeing the HR equivalent of the CorpTechPocalypse – I just don't know where we are in it.

(See, now it gets progeny)

The CorpTechPocalypse, for those of you who haven't had me ram the term down your throat, is a name for the fact that Corporate IT is changing.  In a time of easy outsourcing, mobile technology, on demand technology, and conveniences like the Apple Store, old-school Corporate IT is going away as an institution.

I wonder if old-school HR is in the middle of a similar – but not entirely similar – transition.  Or, perhaps, if it's about to have one.

The CorpTechPocalypse is about the fact that, for many companies, it's just more efficiency to outsource, purchase, or modify IT to take advantage of the many opportunities out there.  There's not always a need for big servers, entire departments, etc.

Outsourcing in HR has been a norm for years – recruiters, specialists, consultants, and the like are a constant presence in many HR departments.  However, I wonder if they're becoming a necessity in a weird, ever-changing, challenging economy.  Let's face it, even when there are many unemployed people, how many folks in HR know how to recruit an enterprise level database specialist that knows basic JSP integration and large scale-data migrations?

Hey, some of you probably don't even know what I said and you're geeks.

I wonder if the complexity of the job market is such that many HR departments just can't keep up with the speciality knowledge and specific needs to do recruiting for important positions.  They may still be around, but is the job the same?  Maybe, simply, HR departments can't do their jobs like they did, but old habits die hard.

In some cases, the departments could just be cut and sent to outsourcing firms entirely.  It doesn't seem to be a trend, but I could see it becoming one in a time of confusing talent hunts and frustration with HR.  In some cases, it may just be easier and more efficient – just like outsourcing IT

For companies out there who are changing HR, maybe they're cutting them, or deciding they don't need them.  Perhaps they're not maintaining them properly.  I have no idea.

But as I look at the state of HR, the frustration, I wonder – are we at a stage where people will start outsourcing it due to frustration . . . or are we in a state of transition where things are being reorged and we haven't caught on yet?

Just a theory – so please give me feedback!

Steven Savage