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Bring out your dead……


There has been a mighty brouhaha in the UK HR community about this article which appeared in The Times on 5 October 2009 written by Sathnam Sanghera. Message boards and blogs are filled with arguments pro and con. These basically divide along two lines:

1) HR is a pointless function full of bureaucratic little dweebs who failed to make it into traffic warden school
2) HR is misunderstood by society and is more strategic than a strategic thing from strategy land….if it could only be taken seriously

I was approached by one of the main trade press to provide a rebuttal to Sanghera’s article and after considering it for a while, well if I’m honest, I struggled.

That’s not to say I agree with him whole heartedly, the article is poorly written, poorly argued and lacks any real substance other than Sanghera’s views. And seeing that his biog shows that on graduating from Cambridge University he went straight into journalism – his views don’t carry as much weight as many in my opinion.

But let’s face it; our profession IS probably one of the most neurotic professions in the world, constantly doubting and questioning its own worth and worrying about how it’s perceived. Like an abused partner that is constantly told they are worthless and meaningless, are we really surprised that we have some sense of neurosis?

And then this just gets worse as we start to harm ourselves. Read the blogs, look at the comments. Lets be self depreciating, because if we say we are pathetic then it won’t hurt so much when others tell us we are. Will it?

So we change how we look, alter our views and appearance, because maybe they’ll love me if I change? All a load of old tosh and a waste of time and energy.

Business Partner? My arse!

Let’s get some confidence, let’s get some swagger, let’s stop worrying and start performing. If people don’t take us seriously lets work to persuade them, to show them, to convince them. We have worth, we have value, we ARE lovable. And if they don’t understand…maybe that’s their problem and not ours. Maybe they have the issue.

If anyone is going to sound the death knell for Human Resources, it will be the profession itself and its lack of spine.

Sanghera has that much right, if nothing else.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Fernandomando permalink
    10/07/2009 14:01

    I don't work in HR, and this might sound far too simple, but instead of a big HR department, couldn't an organisation run with an in-house employment lawyer, guaranteeing compliance? Obviously that person gets a few admin staff, but is anything else really required?

  2. class-factotum permalink
    10/08/2009 12:24

    A reporter? A reporter questions the utility of another profession?

    Pot, meet kettle.

  3. Sayya26 permalink
    10/08/2009 14:20

    I believe Laurie over at PunkRockHR debated this similar topic a few weeks ago. I posted:

    If HR is dying it’s partly us to blame- but also- the archaic-paper-pushing-people-hiring/firing department currently known as HR- is dying.

    We are no longer (or should no longer be), glorified prefects and hallway monitors- but actual strategists and decision makers in the direction of whatever company we work for.

    The days of HR bureaucracy NEED to die and give way to a more flexible and proactive kind of field.

  4. HRD permalink
    10/09/2009 09:34

    @Fernando – If you assume that HR just deals with legal compliance then you're right. But I have to say I work 60+ hours each week and rarely deal with anything legal. Most of my time is working on developing and shaping the organisation and ensuring the smooth running through relationship, communication etc. Having worked with many many lawyers over the years, they are some of the worst people managers and I'm not entirely sure they are made for this kind of work.
    @class-factotum – Indeed. Reminds me of the saying "those that can – do, those that can't – teach, and those that can't teach – teach teachers".
    @Sayya – I think we should be whatever our organisation needs us to be. Not what we think we want to be. Is that naive?

  5. class-factotum permalink
    10/09/2009 12:48

    Fernando, the HR dept in my former employer (the HR director and a secretary are the only people I still keep in touch with after five years) was responsible for union negotiations, recruiting, training and safety. They were also the lead on integrating the new employees when there was an acquisition. (There were at least five of those in eight years.) HR was present at any major meeting I attended because it was a full partner in the business.

    A friend who was an HR director at Kraft was in charge of succession planning, contract negotiations, and organizational effectiveness. She now works as an HR consultant helping small companies develop policies and procedures and doing executive coaching.

    There is a lot to a good HR department.

    The legal department handled different issues and I rarely saw them.

  6. Rick permalink
    10/09/2009 16:10

    So which catagory do you put my riposte into?

    Thanks for the link anyway. I'm sticking you on my sidebar too.

  7. HRD permalink
    10/09/2009 16:47

    @Rick – I actually thought yours was one of the more reasoned responses! Hence why I linked to your blog. But some of the comments that followed fell into both camps!

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