Call it the incredible shrinking HR department: As the New York Times’s Workstation column reported this week, HR departments are getting smaller and smaller, and many are even getting shipped overseas. Instead of popping by a well-staffed on-site office, many employees now have to call an 800 number to get help. And it’s not going to change any time soon. What does outsourcing HR mean for companies—and your job?
Outsourcing some HR tasks makes a certain intuitive sense because of just how many different tasks a typical department is tasked with. The Times’s list includes finding, developing, retaining and training employees, along with “benefits, compensation, employee and labor relations, business partners, data collection and legal issues.” It’s understandable why companies seeking to save money might outsource things like payroll, benefits, or recruiting. This frees up more money in-house to focus on selling widgets, or whatever its primary goals are.
At least that’s the theory. But as Suzanne Lucas, aka Evil HR Lady, tells the Times, there’s no incentive for outside, off-site companies to be really invested in providing flexible service to employees of another company. Their job, primarily, is to be cheap. Lucas sums up that attitude as, “I don’t even have to care about morale at your site, because it doesn’t affect my day.”
By contrast, on-site HR workers who work for the same company as the employees they deal with daily have way more incentive to provide top-notch service. If they perform well, the company earns more money, and employees won’t glare at them at the water-cooler.
And the shift may have bigger implications than just endangering the jobs of HR employees. After all, when you get rid of the experts at recruiting and career developing, is it any wonder that so many employers complain about not being able to find great employees?