It’s the end of HR as we know it…..?

………And I feel fine 🙂

A huge thanks to young Michael Stipe and the miserabilists of REM for allowing me to nick that old classic but it just about sums up my first blog. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been an HR professional, man and boy, and this blog (if you stay with it) is an inspirational and provocative piece with a happy ending despite the title, for all of us passionate about change and desperately seeking to influence it within our own backyard.

We are gleefully informed that professionally we are 100 years old  this year and that ten decades ago a group of people, mostly called Marjorie and Rupert, kicked off what is affectionately known as the CIPD as we know it today. We are currently led by a big cheese (literally) from the world of consulting who has been fielding the usual 2 questions on all our lips for generations :

Why are we perceived as being a bit rubbish in the world of business and why do we seem, too often, to contribute little in creating value as a function ?

Now don’t get me wrong. This is a sweeping generalisation to prove a point and I’m only aware that we have some great people out there doing some great stuff. They appear beautifully groomed in each month’s edition of people management I’m told.

So, back on point, and Mr Cheese has clearly bought himself some time by saying that he doesn’t know the answer to either of these questions and will come back to us, which is fine by me. However, when his organisation can also answer what their members get for a sizeable £138 per year in return that isn’t just about filling the coffers of tea rooms in Harrogate once a year or a 2 day training course that is essential for moving your career forward but requires you to sell a kidney in times of austerity, then all is not well.

You see history has defined us and it’s not often been kind. We have been called in to sweep up the proverbial poop from a long litany of corporate failures down the years. If only we’d had more belief and confidence in our ability to create value.

Have you ever imagined, like me, that if we had the foresight to drive Kaizen or TQM into the Belfast shipyards in the early 20th century, then the Titanic would never have sunk. FACT.

Our historical development has obviously made us the product of the environment we operate within and whilst we can’t roll back the clock and avoid all those embarrassing dinner parties where you had to tell the assembled masses that we work in HR, then we can attempt to influence the exciting future that sits before us with a rethink, rebrand or even a reaction.

On the subject reaction, I’ve bought into the ‘plussing’ concept (it’s from Pixar and in pursuit of excellence they actively encourage everyone involved in producing their movies to challenge ideas and concepts with positive, practical and constructive opposing ideas). They did obviously take a break from this concept when they made the movie Brave, which was frankly a lot of old rubbish. So, where was I ? Oh yeah, my positive, constructive call to action for those interested (which at this stage of the blog is probably only my mum) is to dismantle the HR function as we know it and create our own future with a focus on the following three :

1.   Ditch the tail – May seem harsh and in no way a slur on the administrative legacy of our function but time to focus our efforts on the creation of value for the organisations that pay us. The big unholy pea soup of administration, transaction and simple process inside HR should be hoovered up and given to  those firms doing it from far-flung locations at a low-cost and / or with the assistance of technology. Bung it all together with the facilities, finance and other organisation-centric disciplines and a newly devised Business Services function is born. Leave us with small, nimble, organisation-centric consultancy creating value for its business with insight, technical know-how and credibility to deliver. In too many organisations we have become too big, too fat and too concierge.

2.   Raise the barrier to professional entry – Abandon to the history books forever the phrase “I fell into HR” and create a true level of minimum standards for practitioners to be able to practise professionally. It works for  accountants and lawyers and it should work for us too. At its educational cornerstone should be a focus on the language and DNA of the business world. Time to up our game. Process and policy can be driven to those in service centres with a well-prepared script and the CIPD can become meaningful for those who want more value from our professional body.

3.   Open up some serious dialogue –  Where are the game changers and what are their ideas ? We are at the heart of our profession a conservative (with a small c) bunch and we’ve been blocking and tackling for a century now. Our CIPD publications never seem to tackle the gorillas in the room, instead pitching for self-congratulatory awards or well-boxed articles of women with bobbed hair and men with bad suits grinning with self-satisfaction after conquering a fine piece of process-drafting. Bring into view the guy running Customer Services in the distance throwing unsavoury hand gestures as he’s waited 6 weeks too long for a new team to be built. Let’s explore our failings constructively and tackle these issues that get repeated every other week regarding our profession.

The world of work is continuing to change rapidly – the relatively new-found concept of the office will probably be dead in a generation as technology becomes a chip behind our ear, the one-company employee will be replaced by an employment at will type concept of knowledge workers looking for interesting assignments and gladly the army of high street recruitment consultants will go back to selling flats in up and coming areas where office blocks once stood (only joking, that was just a cheap ‘low barrier to entry’ joke I normally use and would like to reiterate that some of my best friends are recruiters too)..

Some of the above was probably made up (REM did have a song called shiny, happy people for example) but the fact remains that the views held are those of the author and he alone, and do not represent any of his previous employers.

Until next time, you stay classy HR……wordpress


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