Is This HR an Evolution or Is History Repeating Itself?

Is This HR an Evolution or Is History Repeating Itself?

Jacob Morgan, whom I read frequently, recently wrote an article called Who Should Own the Employee Experience. He proposes that the employee experience is a combination of the company culture, the technology the company has and also the physical space of the company. He says that in most companies the employee experience is owned by HR but is not created by HR. He says “Although HR is being tasked as the employee experience torch bearer this isn’t just an HR responsibility.” However, he sees this as an evolution.

Different Approaches

Morgan talks about the Airbnb approach, where there is no HR department. Rather the HR function is combined with facilities and food and beverage and is overseen by the Global Head of Employee Experience. He cites a few more examples of “nontraditional” HR roles in organizations like Pandora, LinkedIn and Accenture where team approaches are used or people are actually assigned to “employee experience.”  Morgan concludes that “I do believe that HR should own the employee experience; it just makes sense. This is the one function inside of our organizations that is responsible for people and so it makes for a natural evolution.”


I agree with Morgan on ownership of the employee experience because I think in many companies that is the way it has been for a long time. The problem is that Morgan is a millennial and he only studies large companies. Much of HR is not in big companies. By a rough estimate about half of the employees in the US are employed in businesses that have fewer than 500 employees. My experience has been that in those small businesses HR does own the “employee” experience from start to finish, if indeed there even is an HR department. When I worked for smaller companies we had the responsibility to make sure employees were set up with equipment. We made sure the food got to the company picnic. My first official duty was to carry the watermelons to the company outing.

As time went on the “profession” wanted to be more professional. We changed the name from personnel to HR. We became more siloed and only handled employment issues such as recruitment, discipline, compliance and collecting performance evaluations. That is what Morgan and many, many others are used to seeing. They are used to seeing HR work in a silo, and they suggest that HR needs to go through an evolution.

Multiple Hats

We used to say that HR managers wore multiple hats. Then we got into specialization. To call yourself a “generalist” was almost demeaning to some. Morgan suggests that we are seeing an evolution in HR, when for those of us that have been around see it a return to the way things have been done, and in many organizations are still done.

We just need to remember regardless of what we call it or how it is organized HR plays an important role in the people in the company.

I do get amused to watch a new generation “discover” a new way of doing things that was done decades ago. We just use new toys.

Just shows that what was old is now new.

Anyone have a similar experience?

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Mike Haberman

Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, speaker, writer of HR Observations, and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc. After over 30 years in HR he got tired of the past and focuses here on the Future of HR. Connect with Mike.


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