Should you make your HR team redundant?

Luke Rix - June 30, 2020

It’s a question that has likely been going on over the last fortnight in boardrooms all around the country. While there has been a lot of discussions around workforce changes and organisations having to make some pretty difficult decisions about standing employees down from their roles, one question that inevitably would have arisen is where does your HR team sit on the list?

It should be a simple question to answer. HR has historically gotten a poor wrap across organisations. Leaders often bemoan HR as the ‘gatekeepers’ that stop them making the decisions or personnel moves they want. There is also the common refrain that HR is a ‘cost centre’ and not ‘revenue generating’. Based on that logic, you’d imagine HR would sit pretty high on the list when a company is faced with cost cutting decisions - why wouldn’t you get rid of the team that costs you money, makes you nothing and makes your life a pain?

While this type of thinking probably crosses a lot of old school leader’s minds, it’s counterintuitive thinking. Right now is when your HR team should be earning their keep. If your organisation is in the position where you need to make tough calls around your people, you want a competent HR team leading the way, coming up with comprehensive workforce strategies which can best utilise your people, not just save you money.

But it must be asked why leaders are questioning whether HR is worth keeping in these environments in the first place. No leader would consider moving on their PR team in the middle of a media crisis, they are essential to get you through it. In fact, most companies would spend a fortune outsourcing to crisis experts and double down on your PR expertise. The same as it’s unlikely you’d look to move on your cyber team in the middle of a major cyber breach - you bring these people closer in times of need. 

The issue likely comes down to how these HR teams are operating on a regular basis. Too many HR teams are too focused on the here and now and take the role as the ‘gatekeeper’ too seriously. While they bemoan those perceptions of the old school leaders, often they are living up to them by focusing on compliance and recording, not building and outcomes. 

With WithYouWithMe having worked with a lot of HR teams over the last three years, it’s very apparent when you come across those who have these traits as opposed to those who don’t. We often work closely with teams on big thematic issues around the Future of Work, with HR leaders often falling into two categories - those who understand this is one of the biggest challenges facing workforces over the next decade and are spending a significant amount of their time addressing it, or those who know they will unlikely be around to see the full impacts and would prefer to stick their head in the sand and leave the problem for someone else to deal with. 

Imagine if your finance team took this approach! If your business had major structural issues which means that your revenue would face significant issues over the next decade, but nothing was being done to address it, that finance team would be fast looking for a new job. 

So back to the million dollar question - should you make your HR team redundant? The short answer is to NO - don’t take that old school approach and undervalue how important a quality HR team sitting next to you should be right now. 

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