Your HR department might not be as equipped to handle employees as you think, and it’s not their fault. Josh Bersin explains.

Human resources is not the field it once was. Gone are the times when the HR manager could walk around the office, be friends with everyone, and deal with the issues as they came up. Much more is expected now: business leaders are asking their HR employees to be business consultants, providing employee engagement strategies, data and analysis, and developing the business’s next generation of leaders and managers.

But is the HR of today qualified to do this? Do these employees want to turn into analysts and developmental program coordinators? And do they get the choice?


This part of your business—just like many parts of your business, we know—is at a crossroads in its industry. Trends are shifting, and the knowledge your HR professionals currently can bring to the table may not be enough to satisfy Millennials, the up-and-coming Generation Z, or your ever-evolving leadership style.

So when you ask your HR department to develop a new training program for new employees, ask yourself this: are you training your HR team?

“The function of HR has really changed,” said Josh Bersin, Principle and Founder of Bersin by Deloitte, an organization that helps companies develop strong research-based people strategies to drive business performance.

“This is a personal crusade of mine: only 12 percent of HR organizations provide professional development for themselves. There’s a lot of training for the rest of the company, but very little help for them to become better at their craft. There is an absolute need for this.”

Josh Bersin started in tech and sales marketing, two fields you wouldn’t immediately connect to human resources. But after joining up with a startup that was in the process of launching a software platform for online learning, the pieces started to fit together.

As an unfortunate casualty of the recession, Bersin lost his job, but took it as an opportunity to begin to think bigger. There was an enormous demand for online training. This, on top of his fascination with online learning, led him to research the possible applications in business.

“Every company, every leader, has people problems at the center of their business. People are what make companies successful, not customers. If you treat your people well, your people will treat your customers well.”

But getting HR right isn’t easy, and Bersin admitted there were a lot of issues to address. Each company has its own set of problems, whether they are culture, compliance, strategy, or leadership. This is one of many struggles: there is no one-size-fixes-all solution.

There is one piece of advice Bersin gives to each company: changes need to be made from the top down. His series of strategies—which includes making sure the job fits the individual and not the other way around, and that business leaders invest in people—has guided many a successful company to more success, and a struggling company to set up a good foundation. It’s key however, that the leadership leads by example.

This is another challenge for HR and employee retention: leadership. Over 85 percent of companies say it’s the number one challenge they face at work.

“If I could narrow down the challenges faced in implementing good HR and talent management strategies, it’s the training, coaching, and selection of managers within an organization that poses the problem,” Bersin said.