Paper-pushers set to become extinct

This week’s front page story about Nokia enabling managers to do salary
reviews over a mobile phone is a sign of the times. The web revolution is
transforming the HR function – but it is not all good news. To put it bluntly,
if you cannot make the switch to a strategic, value-adding role then next year,
or possibly next month, you will be replaced by the corporate intranet or a
call centre.

When 450 HR directors gathered on ocean liner the Oriana for the annual HR
Forum, a key theme was that those stuck in a myopic, paper-chasing, functional
mentality were likely to become extinct soon. Ray Leighton, e-HR executive
consultant at IBM, told delegates that when the computer giant axed a third of
its HR staff as part of a switch to a global web-enabled system, line managers
were forced to fill the vacuum. They proved to be more effective than the HR
practitioners they replaced. Why? Because they were not steeped in

At another seminar, Andrew Kakabadse, professor of management development at
Cranfield School of Management, said that HR qualifications – including the
CIPD’s – and a lifetime’s experience in HR were no passport into senior HR
roles. Any capable manager with a good business brain could do the job as well
within three or four months. He also warned that HR is top of the list of
functions firms plan to outsource.

Web technology and the entrepreneurism of dotcom start-ups are the drivers
for a revolution in how HR is delivered. This is a revolution that won’t stop,
so if you cannot rise to the occasion, you had better get off before you are
pushed off. But for those who measure up, technology could offer the Holy Grail
for HR – a strategic role at the centre of the business.

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