And suddenly we have nothing to offer…..
Last week I wrote about my dislike of the Ulrich model and particularly the way in which the HR community latches on to the latest fad and fashion. One of the most damaging elements of the introduction of the Ulrich model, however, has been the dumbing down of the HR function. I daren’t try and quantify the amount of investment that departments have put into “Business Partner Skills development” and “Up skilling the HR function”, but in all of this, we have in fact taken the first steps towards deskilling the profession.
I am by no means long in the tooth, though I am bald. But as Trish points out at HR Ringleader, the profession seems to attract baldies, so I am in good company! But once again I digress and run the risk of forgetting why I set out to write this and instead put in an impassioned defence for baldness as the new black……
The point is that when I started out in my career, I did everything. I would recruit, I would discipline, I would work on reward, I would train and develop and I would administer. I learnt my trade through doing. I always used to say that after studying the CIPD I had to forget everything I had been taught and then learn to do it all again properly. Now the value of the CIPD is a whole different post, but the truth is, like many professions, you learnt your job by doing the grunt work and progressing upwards. You would do the basics but you would also then pick up projects to help you develop (the Employee Handbook needs revising…….*groan*).
With the implementation of the Ulrich model, where do young starters into the profession go? I imagine they all come out wanting to be “Business Partners”, but can you effectively partner a business if you haven’t experienced first hand a lot of the interventions you will be calling on others to apply? If you go into a “Centre of Excellence” sure you might be able to progress until you are “Chief Recruiter”, but what do you know about Learning and Development or Employee Relations? And if you go into the “Shared Services”…well are you convinced you will ever get out alive?
The value of the generalist model was that there was clear career progression. You could dip in and out of specialisms during your career, you were a rounded professional with areas of expertise, but a breadth of knowledge. That meant that when you finally climbed to the top of the tree, you understood everything that lay beneath you. Maybe not in detail, but in enough detail to make sure it was functioning correctly and servicing the business well.
Our value to an organisation is as an expert that understands the business and that can apply our expertise in the right way to drive improvements within our organisations. If we allow our knowledge and insight to dissipate, all that we are left with is knowledge of the business. And let’s be honest that is not a USP! Other business areas have it and many in significantly higher proportions that their HR colleagues! So I wonder, is it a coincidence that the faddism for Ulrich has coincided with an increased number of “non HR professional” moving into HR Director roles?
On discussing this the other day I was asked, “Well if you had the choice who would you appoint as HR Director? An HR Business Partner or someone who really knew your business?” My response was simple, “Who would you rather appoint someone who really knew your business or someone who really knew your business and was an expert in HR management?”