A tucked-away article at the bottom of a Wall Street Journal mid-section raised our hair (or is it hackles?).

Quite simply, reporters investigated companies who’d either done away with or never had a human resources function.  Obviously, the article came in with mixed reviews, either citing CEOs who wanted to force personnel (argh!) issues to the middle or those who were mandated, legally and otherwise, to establish a bona fide HR department, with a credentialed executive.

Why the freak-out?  Because if it happens to this type of staff position, it could occur to any non-line function.  At any time.  For any reason. 

Specifically, our objections to the “out with HR” policy:

  • Leadership is asking middle managers to do way too much.  Imagine juggling 401(K) education with a fire drill for retaining a client.
  • Between listening to customers and listening to employees, there’s a whole universe of technical information to master.  Software can’t always handle it.  Nor can the general manager.
  • Mediating among conflicting viewpoints takes some real training – and practice.  Name us the managers in your cadre who can do it well.  [Not just do it.]
  • Ever get 100 percent compliance in the performance management cycle?  We thought not …

We heard you (and point taken):  It’s difficult to merchandise a ‘soft’ skill, a ‘soft’ capability like people management and communications and graphic design.  Everybody fancies him/herself a people manager, an editor or advertiser or communicator. 

On the other hand, it’s imperative that we as the sitting professionals master the art of showing tangible results and how we add value to the enterprise – no matter where we sit and what we do.  Without that, we’re toast.