Tuesday, April 15, 2008

HR Lays Dead and Dying

Ok, it is time to admit it, when profits are down and the investors scream they need to make 20 million instead of 17 million and, well... have you seen what a new Bentley costs?? Human Resource departments typically get cut first, and get cut hard.

Home Depot has announced it is decimating its HR staff and eliminating store based HR managers. The HR function will now be handled by regional teams and a call center to answer technical questions. Reports indicate over 2200 well paid HR positions will go poof once everything is shook out. In doing that, Home Depot says it can add new $10/hr floor jobs in its stores. Gee, maybe a second check out???

HR is slowly dying as an exciting and viable career, reduced to call centers and paper filers. Hearing this made me personally glad I didn't get that HR job at Home Depot a few years ago (A Trip to Home Depot) as I would now be looking for work in a scary job market.

I worked in HR for nearly 15 years and loved almost every minute of it. When my company ceased talking about quality services, employee satisfaction and customer service and concentrated instead on "the best interests of our stakeholders", I knew it was time to leave. I did and never looked back. I drifted to other HR jobs, always getting the raw end of the deal, responsible for everything, but no authority to do anything about it.

In this "stakeholder" driven economy, where a few rich investors are the only things a company cares about, employees are nothing, especially managers with good salaries and benefits. When I applied to Home Depot, a store HR manager was starting at about $50K. Now there are 2200 less people making good money to pay taxes and buy Home Depot merchandise. I wonder what is going to happen when we are all reduced to making $10/hr or less, trying to sell each other a Big Mac and waiting to be an Assistant Manager making $11/hr?

People are still needed to run a company, despite the stakeholder's ideas to the contrary.
It all boils down to the human element. Good people always overcome poor planning, inefficient processes and obsolete equipment. Dedicated employees retain customers, even if your product or service is not the least costly or even the best. So why is Human Resources, the primary function responsible for hiring and retention, always the first to go?

Short sided thinking only concerned for profit, return on investment for a few and concentration of wealth for the bankers and "stakeholders" who trickle down a bit to the masses now and then. Cheap credit has made the middle class think they are on the same gravy train. But when one of the wage earners comes home and says they no longer have the $50K job, the train begins to derail.

I am done with HR. I entertained thoughts now and then about looking for a good HR position, but they are few. I have been really out of the field since 2003 so I am as good as last week's newspaper as far as most companies are concerned. I used to subscribe to a daily online HR newsletter to sort of keep up with the trends. The subscription now is canceled, it was just clogging up my inbox.

For all those to be laid off, there is life after HR, but it will be a rough ride for a while. Good luck.


Anonymous said...

These company's all wonder why
they are in financial trouble?
It's as plain as the nose on your

Anonymous said...

[Don]: Why is Human Resources, the primary function responsible for hiring and retention, always the first to go?
I say it's because they see HR as a function to answer one question anymore: Can we legally fire this person? Yet they already have lawyers they can ask that question.

As for profits vs. people, that train left in the late 80s. I remember when Bill Clinton was campaigning in '92, he'd tell crowds that you could make a phone call or file corporate relocation papers electronically and by morning your job will have vanished to India, China, or elsewhere. Fast-forward 16 years and our USDollar is worth only 40 cents, ethanol is killing us, even though we subsidize farmers who produce it rather than food, oil is north of $115/barrel, gas is rocketing toward $4/gal. soon, and that whole climate thing ain't getting any better.

HR doesn't have the cache like a Bear Stearns to blatantly fail and yet have JPMorgan come back and say, "We'll buy Stearns' trash, but only if the taxpayers pay for it." Meanwhile, billionaires glibly flick their wrist at a bad economy, claiming, "there's always winners and losers in bad economies." Translation: Our money's in a Swiss bank. We don't "worry" about money.

As HR has gone, watch as this same phenomenon ripples through the economy. It's already slammed trucking, paper/timber, and airlines. Hell, the FAA hasn't inspected a plane in seven years. What makes you think they'll care about the human resource? (That last sentence made sense to me.)