The HR Dilemma

HR has always wrestled with an identity dilemma. 

Time has been spent focusing on who we are, what we do and, rather tediously, where we sit within the overall structure of the business environment.

We are, arguably, the only function, or profession if you’d rather, that continually does this by the way. Sure there will always be some sub-departments in other areas of business arguing about where they feel they should report and how they should be perceived, but on a grand scale, worldwide, I don’t see many other functions debating the subject as much as us. 

And we in-fight too. Should learning and development be part of HR (yawn) and is payroll a finance function (so what) and ‘i’m not HR, i’m OD’ and what about health and safety and….. 

They don’t feel like the right questions to me.

I get the irony, after all i’m blogging about the subject and fuelling the debate now too.

We’ve wrestled with this issue because we’ve evolved and maybe more than many of our counterparts. We have grown and we have matured. We have modified our focus, refined our purpose, relinquished ill-fitting counter-productive tasks that should not have been ‘owned’ by us in the first place and yet are entirely aware that our work is far from done and that further work is necessary. 

However, I fear business is growing tired of this discussion. As the old saying goes “actions speak louder than words”.

We must forget this tired debate and move to demonstrating our strategic contribution by making a strategic contribution where we aren’t already. 

We are, undoubtedly, an intrinsic organisational function and we have a significant value that we can add to business, but we aren’t entitled to expect business leaders to perceive us as this way without demonstrating our worth. 

If we are to be architects of organisational development, the experts of people at work and the champions of better work and working lives, then we need to just do it, and then do it more, and then do it better. 

And share our ideas about how we are doing it.

And support each other to do it.

And promote within our businesses what we are doing.

It is only then that the perception of HR as a function will start to change, or continue to change where the process has already started (which it has done, in many businesses, all over the world).

HR for me, has always been about supporting and contributing, and that means different things to different HR practitioners in different organisations. One size doesn’t fit all, and in the real world, in some businesses and industries, we might never change our perception. 

But it starts with us individually looking in the mirror, evaluating our contribution, and getting good work done. Good, value-add, vital work. 

The recognition should follow.

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