The Evolution of Human Resources

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It can be argued that perceptions of the CHRO role and the HR function have been influenced by the origin and evolution of the HR profession.

According to Wright, Stewart, and Moore, traditionally HR has played largely an administrative function. This was reflected by the view in the past, and occasionally today, that the head of HR was referred to by the title of Director of Personnel.

HR started to become viewed as strategic, according to James Walker, in the 1980s. Attempts were being made to tie HR planning to business strategy for the first time. Although attempts were made to align the HR function with the organization, this was done primarily in silos.

In the 1990s, the CHRO started to become a member of the executive leadership team. This resulted in the development of an integrated HR business model, including centers of expertise and shared services. In the 2000s, the dot com bubble burst. Corporate scandals and the financial crisis led to increased recognition of the importance of HR. This resulted in the CHRO becoming more involved with the executive board.

Understanding the origin and history of the HR function and how it influences perceptions of key stakeholders like the CEO and CFO will help the chief HR officer and HR practitioners to overcome obstacles associated with the head of HR becoming a trusted and integral member of the executive leadership team.

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Key Concepts from this Video:

History of the Human Resources Profession, Director of Personnel, Integrated HR Business Model

Evolution of the HR Profession

  • HR Function Viewed as Administrative Function

    Prior to the 1980s

  • HR Function Starts to be Viewed as Strategic


  • CHROs Start to Become Executive Leadership Team Members


  • CHROs become More Involved with Executive Boards


  • Transformation of CHRO into Business Leader


Self Check

When did HR first begin to be viewed as strategic?

When did CHROs start to become a part of executive leadership teams?