Will 2016 Mark the End of HR?

Consider yourself a progressive company? If you haven't already, we highly suggest you get rid of your HR department. 

Not get rid of your HR employees. Not get rid of the people who manage your payroll, benefits, time & attendance, or your hiring/firing process. That's not what we mean. 

What we mean is, it's time to rename your HR department, and rethink the roles of those working in it. At the same time as technology automates more of the HR tasks that used to be time-consuming and required specialized expertise, companies are also recognizing the growing need to focus more time and attention on the employee experience, company culture, retention, and engagement. 

Case in point, while MailChimp still has an HR department, they made a significant move last March when they promoted their Human Resources Director to Chief Culture Officer. The new HR director now reports to her. 

"In other words, HR got demoted," Bloomberg said. "The American human resources department has been struggling to define its identity for some time. The issue has become urgent." 

There's a reason companies like Airbnb, Google, and Microsoft are renaming their HR departments to be more reflective of people and culture, or the employee experience. To put it simply, today's forward-thinking companies do not regard their employees as resources -- they recognize them as unique, complete, valuable individuals whom they need to take great care of.

"In spite of the happiness title that gets thrown around, it’s really about something deeper," Meredith Haberfeld of ThinkHuman explained to Bloomberg. "This is not about massages and tequila Fridays. It's about an underlying context at the most senior levels that drives decisions and actions and is woven through the entire culture."

Some alternative titles to HR being used at leading companies:

  • Google has a VP of People Operations & Chief Culture Officer
  • Hoosuite has a VP of Talent
  • Lululemon has a Director of People Potential & Recruitment
  • Netflix has a Chief Talent Officer
  • MailChimp has a Chief Culture Officer
  • Warby Parker has a Head of People
  • SquareSpace has a Director of People
  • Airbnb has a Global Head of Employee Experience
  • HubSpot has a VP of Culture & Experience
  • Adobe has VP of Global Talent Acquisition & Talent Development
  • Microsoft has a Chief People Officer

Why They're Doing it

Ben Whitter, a writer for HR blog Thrive in Asia, put it really well:  

"What is clear is that this move quite visibly positions the employee experience as critical to the business, not HR. This is absolutely right, in my view, and gives practitioners the confidence and belief to know that HR is no longer a support function within the business, because the employee experience, to a large extent, is the business."

Consider the Employee Experience Department At Airbnb

"Airbnb’s decision to not have a head of human resources or even a human resources department has been making quite a bit of news," Jacob Morgan wrote for Forbes. "Instead, they have a team devoted to creating employee experiences and someone who helps run that department – Mark Levy, the global head of Employee Experience." 

Jacob digs deeper into why Airbnb made this move in his Future of Work podcast, and explores the evolution of the Employee Experience department, which includes compensation, benefits, office environment, and the company's food and beverage program.  

On renaming an industry with a robust history, Rocky Ozaki, the Director of People and Culture at Rise says, "There is no disrespect intended. I’m a career-long advocate and spokesperson of the HR profession. I simply—and vehemently—believe that the workplace is evolving. HR must embrace this change and not only adjust their previously held beliefs and best practices, but also their very name."

Have you embraced people, culture or employee experience titles at your company? We'd love to hear what those titles and companies are in the comments below.