Is Your HR Department Really an Admin Department?

How much of your "HR" work is really admin?
Your company loses its competitive differentiator when HR functions as admin.

Look at any organizational chart. Administration is still necessary, and yet you’d be hard pressed to find an admin department.

Decades ago, companies had admin departments with many administrative employees. Today, firms have fewer administrators against more regulation and increasing bureaucracy!

In our knowledge economy, people remain the differentiating competitive advantage as companies require fewer operating assets, with even those assets – computers and software – now commoditized. Since regulation tends to center on differentiators, government compliance focuses increasingly on employees.

Admin deserves its own department as does HR.
Admin deserves its own department as does HR.

But does filing more electronic forms and enforcing compliance make it less of an admin function because it involves humans? The answer is in the Shakespearean quip, “A rose by any other name…

If administration is being performed by companies bereft of admin departments, then who performs admin? Admin departments, of course. Only they are now called HR departments.

Administrators are vital and even maintain own professional associations. The American Society of Administrate Professionals and International Association of Administrative Professionals are two excellent examples.

When companies misclassify administrative employees as HR, they do so to the detriment of both professions. We recognize administrators’ unique skillsets distinguishing them from HR. Unfortunately,  HR departments now absorb admin to the dilution of HR.

By confusing the two roles but only giving one its own department, we undervalue the importance administrators provide while denying them their own career path.

We also cloud the career paths of HR professionals. Once their jobs get outsourced to vendors efficiently handling payroll, compliance and other benefit administrative work, they realize all too late they actually worked in admin despite their HR title.

We make this claim because companies only outsource functions on which they don’t compete. For those functions, they accept industry standards vendors provide equally to all clients, including competitors.

True HR cannot be executed by vendors since employees are the great differentiator. And firms never outsource what they compete on. (For more on this, watch the video below and read “Why Your Company is an HR Company.“)

Merely giving administrators HR titles offers little security when algorithms are able to perform the same functions more efficiently against newer technologies.

Sadly, administrators with HR titles realize their admin role only after their companies decide to cut checks to vendors instead of them.

What can both administrators and HR professionals do to protect their own unique careers? We have ideas on that too!

Vincent Suppa works with startups and investors and teaches graduate courses at New York University. His email is suppa@suppa.org.

© Vincent Suppa 2016