Sometimes, there’s simply no substitute for a specialist.
Janine Truitt, senior Human Resources representative for Brookhaven National Laboratory and HR blogger, recently came out with this article on the value of centralized and specialized HR versus the trend of generalists embedded within departments. Ultimately, she writes, it comes down to one major point:
The overarching question is: can these practitioners do [all aspects of HR and recruiting], and do it all effectively? The answer to that question depends on these three variables: the size of the organization, the amount of HR functions to be handled, and the amount of support the company is willing to supply to these decentralized practitioners. Without these three variables being properly considered and planned for, the role of the “partner in the trenches” is basically a joke.
The question of whether to invest in specialized HR can be tough for the reasons implied above: it saves money, it can streamline company structure and the costs (outlined in the article) don’t show up on a balance sheet, at least in any easily identifiable way. For small companies, a few generalists may be the perfect solution to HR needs.
However, as a business grows and becomes more complex, the need and value of specialized HR grows alongside it. One person, or one type of person, simply can’t do everything, or at least can’t do everything well. At this point specialists give an edge via their existing partnerships and expertise. Most importantly, HR specialists can keep a company out of serious hot water by both facilitating effective decisions and navigating the often-treacherous terrain of legal and corporate HR policy.
A great example of this is Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) compliance, especially for any hiring or contracting related to government work. Lawsuits can be filed against a company that incorrectly navigates EEO policy, but often such information is critical to the hiring process (for example, if the work requires security clearance). A specialist will be able to handle the information requirements and balance them with the recruiting process with far less hassle than a generalist trying to deal with fifteen other tasks.
As a company generalizes HR, it also increases automated communication and can lose the competitive advantage of niche recruiting and thus access to top-level candidates. While it may save on budget, these realities may have a huge impact on the long-term success of any business large enough to need a Human Resources department.
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