Is HR divorced from reality?

Following todays furore that erupted as a result of the disclosure of details into the working practices and conditions in Sports Direct, CIPD’s former Chief Economist Dr John Philpott wrote on Twitter;-

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I engaged with Dr Philpott on this tweet  where I explained that I was more shocked by the findings than the widespread reaction to those findings. Dr Philpott’s response to me included this;-

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This is an interesting point and I respect him massively for making it. Largely because, for the most part, I agree with him.

Very often in HR we have aspirational vision to change the world directing us to start at ‘the top’. But because our head is turned in that direction, are we guilty of not spending a proportionate amount of time recognising the here and now challenges that are existing in reality?

Exploitation in the workplace exists. Discrimination in the workplace exists. Systematic failures to treat people with respect and to treat employees lawfully exists. I’m sure you believe me, but if you don’t, spend a couple of days in your nearest Employment Tribunal or just watch the news today. We know this is the case, it’s widespread in the press and media.

In reality, leadership is not taught out of a textbook and company policy applications are not identically applied as have been written in the ACAS code mirrored policies that have been put in place. Thats because we talk about an environment where we don’t spend enough time contextualising our point alongside things such as pressure, ideological conflict, and limited ability to transfer ideas into action. There are more boundaries, obviously.

Not everyone of course does this, but then not all HR gurus portray an idealised view of the world divorced from reality – just that many/some do.

Every company is different, every industry is different and every MD is different.

As a result, the challenges and the agenda for HR within each business will always be different however perhaps we should spend more time talking about the vitally important employee relations/welfare ‘essentials’.

I agree with Dr Philpott in so far as we don’t spend enough time talking about these successes or operating in the reality of different environments. Maybe we don’t spend enough time talking about incredibly positive life changing initiatives that might be very basic to prominent HR guru’s who might be operating at a much more senior level.

For example, I’m always impressed when organisations implement successful apprenticeship programmes, reduce employee turnover and volume of disciplinary cases and when businesses accredit key core skills – but I don’t get to read much about this unless its as a side note in a greater discussion thats focussing on the broader subject of culture or engagement. I don’t know, maybe i’m just looking in the wrong places.

So maybe we need to enhance the culture of what we deem as success in HR and start celebrating the basics again and be a little more honest about the environments in which HR operate. Maybe this will even help with the attitude towards HR where this needs improving, and reinforce that we are there for ALL.