The Evolution of HR

I have been reading a lot about HR lately, and am a bit perturbed by the negative perception of HR in management writings. Peter Drucker wrote that personnel administrators are preoccupied with “gimmicks” and consistently complain that they lack status. Drucker wrote that almost 60 years ago and many other authors have echoed his assertions in the decades since. Dave Ulrich edited a book a few years back that compiled essays on the future of HR. Just look at some of these essay titles:

  • “Does Human Resources have a future?” (Jeffrey Pfeffer)
  • “‘Don’t send me one of those typical human resource people’: A true life adventure story” (Harold Johnson)
  • “Judge me more by my future than by my past” (Dave Ulrich)
  • “Human resources in the future: An obstacle or a champion of globalization?” (Vladimir Pucik)
  • “Is the human resource function neglecting the employees?” (Bruce Ellig)

I would love to say all those titles are outdated, but I am not so sure they are. Has HR actually evolved in the past 15 years?

I think it has. We’ve seen rapid growth in HR being recognized as a legitimate profession over the past couple decades. We’ve seen some exceptional HR leaders be recognized as leaders (without the HR caveat). We’ve seen companies such as SouthWest Airlines flout the importance of their head of HR as being the second in command. We’ve seen legitimate research and journals emerge that study HR practices. I think we still have a ways to go as a profession, but at least we’re not being asked why we’re at the dance in the first place. Now if someone can just teach us how to dance, we’ll be ready to go.

Drucker, P. (1954). The practice of management. New York: Harper Row.

Ulrich, D., Losey, M.R. & Lake, G. (Eds). (1997). Tomorrow’s HR Management: 48 thought leaders call for change. New York: John Wiley & Sons.


About Tim Vanderpyl
I am a student of leadership and human resources, and I'm blogging to share some of my thoughts and ideas with readers. I'm a CHRP (Certified Human Resource Professional) at a large healthcare organization, a graduate of Regent University's Doctor of Strategic Leadership program, and lover of the life that God has gifted me with.

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