Why HR could be doing so much more for you.

A few weeks ago I was chatting to a HRD preparing a talk about the role of HR. Their theme was that HR shouldn’t exist.  The idea that when it comes to people stuff, expertise should sit with functional leaders in the organisation isn’t new. I get that in many places that’s what it says in the job description.

My experience is that leaders still turn to HR for leadership in these areas. Maybe because they lack confidence, skill, understanding or inclination.

If this culture change isn’t about to happen any time soon, surely HR should, along with Finance, be the left & right hands of any CEO. So why doesn’t HR get the kudos and respect of Finance? Can’t be sure but maybe baby it’s because:

  1. It’s not hard to find places where success is measured in £ terms, not people terms. In that context, People things will always be less than Finance things.


  1. Doing the People role well at a senior level requires deep technical skills and a particular blend of qualities like strength, compassion, humanity, and candour. If the culture much more greatly values attributes like ruthlessness and “the strong man”, then once again HR is “less than”.


  1. HR has become the most denigrated function – “pink and fluffy”, “providers of tea and Tampax”, “Human Remains”. These disrespectful phrases are not relics of the ‘80s and ‘90s. I heard them then and I still hear them or versions of them now. I know Finance gets the Bean Counter thing, but when combined with everything else, the impact on HR is much more damaging. 


  1. The function has become associated with making people feel happier or “fixing” underperformance; Rather than driving high performance and fulfilling talent to deliver competitive advantage. As a result, the function is seen as remedial, not deliverers of massive added value. 


  1. The name’s a problem. As soon as we start with “Resources”, it diminishes the power of people compared to the power of money or process. Anyone fancy a Human Performance Director?


  1. HR has joined the ROI game to an extent that’s really unhelpful for everyone, including HR. As a result, HR is playing by rules that weren’t designed for it. It has to mark out its professional and ethical territory more clearly. Maybe it’s a question of confidence from years of being “less than”? 


  1. This obsession with measurement has driven a desire for the “best” “scientific” tools. Many of which have questionable underpinnings, were designed for things not people and are culturally prejudicial. Some flirt with being all three. There’s a credibility and relevance issue here and that’s massive when it comes to getting love, respect or both.


Let’s champion the HRD. Let’s have human performance directors with deep subject matter expertise in human performance and let’s start supporting them to step into the power and potential & respect that such a role both reflects and deserves.