Companies Say No to Having an HR Department
Sometimes the only thing worse than having an HR department is not having one.
When LRN Corp., which helps companies develop ethics and compliance programs, restructured a few years ago, the 250-employee business abolished most job titles and department names. It also did away with its human-resources department, which had dealt with recruiting and compensation issues, among other things.
'We wanted to force the people issues into the middle of the business,' said David Greenberg, Los Angeles-based LRN's executive vice president.
Companies seeking flat management structures and more accountability for employees are frequently taking aim at human resources. Executives say the traditional HR department -- which claims dominion over everything from hiring and firing to maintaining workplace diversity -- stifles innovation and bogs down businesses with inefficient policies and processes. At the same time, a booming HR software industry has made it easier than ever to automate or outsource personnel-related functions such as payroll and benefits administration.
Some workers say they feel the absence of an in-house HR staff acutely, especially when it comes to bread-and-butter HR responsibilities such as mediating employee disputes and resolving pay problems. LRN and other companies that are going it alone say they are working out the glitches as they go.
Ruppert Landscape Inc., an 11-year-old landscaping company with 900 employees, has never had a traditional HR department. Instead, managers must balance renewing contracts and ensuring that a client's grass is cut to the proper height with hunting down talent at college recruiting sessions and teaching employees about the company's 401(k) plan.
CEO Craig Ruppert said the decentralized structure fosters autonomy and accountability among leaders across the company, which is based in Laytonsville, Md., and covers markets from Philadelphia to Atlanta. He estimates that its managers spend 5% of their time on matters related to human resources.
'I just have a hard time understanding how somebody in an office two or four states away can do a better job of solving an employee problem than someone who has a vested interest in the employee,' Mr. Ruppert said.
In 2012, U.S. employers had a median of 1.54 HR professionals for every 100 employees, up slightly from a low of 1.24 in the recession year of 2009, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. They earn a median annualized wage of about $51,000, government statistics show.
Startups usually launch without personnel teams, but SHRM advises that companies bring on a human-resources staffer once they reach 15 employees, the point at which personnel issues become complex enough to require specialized skills.
'Whenever you consider eliminating portions of HR you have to think of the financial risk, the strategic risk,' said Steve Miranda, the managing director of Cornell University's Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies and a former HR executive at Lucent Technologies, now part of Alcatel-Lucent.
Managers often lack specialized knowledge that is crucial for keeping a company competitive and on the right side of the law, he said. If they don't understand the latest rules under the Family and Medical Leave Act, for example, they can open their company up to lawsuits; if they don't know where to find qualified engineers, they can end up behind in the battle for talent.
Outback Steakhouse, a unit of Bloomin' Brands Inc., had no HR department before 2008 but created one after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the restaurant chain for sex discrimination. In 2009, Outback paid $19 million to settle the case and agreed to add an executive-level HR position.
Interpersonal issues must be handled differently when HR isn't around to mediate. Klick Health, a Toronto-based marketing agency focused on health care, has forgone a human-resources department in favor of two 'concierges,' employees with customer-service backgrounds whose job is to create what CEO Leerom Segal calls a 'frictionless' work experience for employees. 纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com
For the concierges, that means chores ranging from setting up mentoring sessions and career-development paths to picking up a birthday gift for a worker's spouse.
When co-workers can't stand each other or employees aren't clicking with their managers, Mr. Segal expects them to work it out themselves. 'We ask senior leaders to recognize any potential chemistry issues' early on, he said, and move people to different teams if those issues can't be resolved quickly.
Former Klick employees applaud the creative thinking that drives its culture, but say they sometimes felt like they were on their own. Neville Thomas, a program director at Klick until 2013, occasionally had to discipline or terminate direct reports. Without an HR team, he said, he worried about liability.
'There's no HR department to coach you,' he said. 'When you have an HR person, you have a point of contact that's confidential.'
'We aim to create a culture of openness so that all our employees can feel comfortable turning to their manager or our management team for questions, assistance, and coaching on conflict resolution or any other area,' said Klick's Mr. Segal.
And though managers sometimes perceive personnel departments as slowing a company down, doing without them can lead to stagnation, according to a former LRN employee.
The company's hiring process became a lengthy and convoluted ordeal, she said, as employees labored to figure out what skills and salary a new worker should have. And the company's executives became 'the ultimate decision makers for everything,' she said, creating a bottleneck.
Mr. Greenberg from LRN said the company 'is definitely a work in progress,' and that its own metrics show it must do more to foster trust among workers. He added that the company has just brought on an employee 'to focus on all things related to people at LRN.'
She isn't called a human-resources executive, though; she has no title at all.
拥有11年历史、雇员900人的园林公司Ruppert Landscape Inc.从来没有一个传统的人力资源部门。管理人员一方面要续合同、确保客户的草坪剪到合适高度，另一方面也要在大学招聘会上寻找人才、让员工了解公司的401（k）计划。
据人力资源管理协会(Society for Human Resource Management)数据，2012年，美国雇主每雇用100名员工便雇用 中位数1.54名人力资源专业人员，略高于2009年衰退期间1.24名的低点。政府统计资料显示，他们的中位数年化薪酬约为5.1万美元。
康奈尔大学(Cornell University)高级人力资源学研究中心(Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies)执行主任史蒂夫·米兰达(Steve Miranda)说：“考虑裁掉一部分人力资源人员的时候，你得考虑到由此带来的财务风险和战略风险。”米兰达曾是朗讯科技(Lucent Technologies)的人力资源高管。朗讯科技现在是阿尔卡特朗讯(Alcatel-Lucent)的一部分。
他说，管理人员常常缺乏一些专业知识，这些专业知识对于保持公司竞争力、让公司遵纪守法有着至关重要的作用。比如，如果他们不懂《事假和病假法案》(Family and Medical Leave Act)衍生的最新规定，那么公司就有可能面临诉讼；如果不知道去哪里寻找合格的工程师，到头来他们可能就会在争夺人才的战斗中落后于人。
Bloomin' Brands Inc.旗下的Outback Steakhouse在2008年之前没有人力资源部门，但这家餐饮连锁企业在平等就业机会委员会(Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)起诉它性别歧视之后设立了一个。2009年，Outback付出1,900万美元和解此案，同时增设一个高管级别的人力资源岗位。
在没有人力资源人员出面调停的情况下，人际关系问题必须用不同的方式处理。多伦多侧重于医疗行业的营销代理机构Klick Health就曾放弃设立人力资源部门，取而代之的是两个“服务员”，即拥有客户服务背景的员工，其任务是为员工营造出CEO勒罗姆·西格尔(Leerom Segal)所说的“无摩擦”工作体验。