Is it Time for HR to Start From Scratch?

Editor’s Note: Dr. John Sullivan has been a provocateur and strategist in the field of human resources and talent management for over 30 years. His specialty is HR strategy and designing world class HR systems and tools for Fortune 200 firms, and he’s never been shy about telling it like it is.

That’s why TLNT asked him to share his thinking in a video series titled “$#*!@ Dr. John Sullivan Says!” Look for these videos twice a week here at TLNT.

Today’s topic: The rebuilding process for HR

“I’ve been at the forefront of saying HR doesn’t need to change 2 percent, but 50 percent or maybe even 100 percent,” Dr. John Sullivan says.”So the question comes up that if we were to blow up HR … what would the new approach be if we started from scratch?”

The first thing he would do, he says, is to declare HR to be a science, not an art, and would manage people with data. “You have to be making decisions based on data and get rid of the art construct.”

He also says that HR should be a consulting function within the organization on talent and excellence, and NOT a department that is stuck with helping people fill out forms. HR should be a value-add in recruiting and talent management, or he believes, they shouldn’t be there.

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Dr. John has a number of other pointed suggestions as well, and taken together, they represent a total –and some would say long overdo — overhaul of an organizations’s HR function.

Did you miss the last segment of$#*!@ Dr. John Sullivan Says!” on “What HR is Doing Wrong (And Needs to get Fixed Right Away”? You can see it here.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


3 Comments on “Is it Time for HR to Start From Scratch?

  1. HR is certainly an art form, not scientific. HR professionals are artists of communication and human interaction, almost theatrical. There really isn’t a scientific approach to relationships fundamentally. But I do agree that the HR role is one of consultation, not simply administration work, which probably isn’t the case in many businesses.

  2. I have to disagree with you slightly lspa. Relationships ( or human behaviors ) are constantly being examined and are the Holy Grail companies like Google, Facebook, & IBM are throwing armies of engineers and developers at to figure out. Not for advertising sales purposes either. For example, Google is continuing to work towards building an algorithm that will predict disengaged workers. This was 3 years ago when this work started if memory serves me correctly. The science is coming whether you like it or not.

    I do agree that there is an art component to HR that will not go away and I don’t believe that just because of the movie Up in the Air. The decision making and strategy formation should be a science while how one executes those initiatives is art. How one is able to take the data and interpret and integrate it into a practical application within your business is where the current skill gap is from my perspective. 80% scientific and 20% art is where I think the sweet spot is for us with some slight movement depending on the economic environment.

    In the end HR has to be ready and open to transforming itself before environmental conditions demand it.

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