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National Association of Counties • Washington, D.C.      Vol. 35, No. 3 • February 10, 2003

The H.R. Doctor Is In

From Transact to Transform

Anyone who has been to a doctor’s office in recent years will have been greeted at the front desk by a receptionist who gathers basic information and makes sure that not only are you sick, but that at least one copy of your insurance card has been made. This person then manages your waiting time by assuring you that the doctor really is in and will be with you shortly!

After a while, a nurse or nurse’s aide escorts you into an examining room. You are weighed and measured, and again invited to read a three-year-old copy of Sports Illustrated while continuing to wait. Increasingly, in physicians’ offices, there is an additional intervening person who may be called a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner who further “downloads” some of the work away from the physician, who used to take the history and perform the routine initial medical screening.

The physician arrives for a brief encounter, which leads to the diagnostic judgment and the treatment options. In the United States, a physician will spend about 18 minutes in the average encounter with a patient.

What is occurring has been the rise of sub-specialties such as physician’s assistant and nurse anesthetists, as well as an expansion of the role of other medical employees including RNs. The same thing is happening in other professions.

The HR Doctor advises many people each year about career choices. When it comes to a career in human resources, the advice is clear and so are the trends.

If you are looking for a career in “transactional processing,” in which you review documents and apply what you see against standard rules, then HR is not going to offer you long-term job security or satisfaction.

This type of work is declining and headed for a brief mention on the History Channel. Transactional processing in all professions is being outsourced to specialty companies or being managed internally by electronic processes in the increasing world of “e-business.”

Take banking for example. When was the last time you actually set foot in a bank? Frankly, the HR Doctor cannot remember when he last did this. In a world of ATM machines, online banking and communications by voice prompt or voicemail, the concept of doing business with an organization takes on new expectations: Work can be done at my convenience as a customer, 24-7, and not necessarily with human intervention.

In the future, many jobs with transactional work at their core will not exist in a modern organization.

However, don’t despair as you think about future career options. What is growing is not the transactional part of HR but the transformational part of this wonderful profession.

HR is at its most exciting and most rewarding when it allows individuals and organizations to receive timely and effective advice as well as innovative approaches to improvement. This is the part of the profession that is never boring and is increasingly recognized for its value and organization.

This is the future of HR. It is the profession that increasingly sits at the decision-making table along with the county or city manager, the elected officials, the attorney and the director of finance. The new HR combines offense and defense on the same team. It guards the organization against liability, and it develops policy, benefits and approaches for the organization’s future success.

What kind of HR does your organization practice? If it is transactional, it is time for you to use the catch-up provisions of deferred compensation to build your retirement nest egg so that you can leave as quickly as possible before the job devolves into nothing.

If the role is strategic, and if the HR staff is allowed and encouraged to develop and to contribute, the future in the organization is bright. The work atmosphere described above is also the success formula in other professions including accounting, engineering and information technology.

The agency’s top leaders are well advised to focus on transformation and not transaction. It’s what modern organizations need, and it’s what the best professionals increasingly demand.

The metamorphosis of HR is underway and it is unstoppable. Enjoy the ride!

Phil Rosenberg
The HR Doctor •