About 10 years ago, I attended a global conference for HR professionals, and there was a huge buzz about an article that had just come out in Fast Company Magazine called “Why We Hate HR.”
Since I had not yet read the article, I assumed it was talking about why HR folks were weary of the profession.
Boy, was I wrong.
Actually, the focus was on why business leaders, other functional leaders and the non-HR community in general (i.e. our clients) found HR useless, uninspiring, and a “necessary evil” (Yikes! That one hurt!).
While this was hard to swallow, having worked in HR for several years at that moment in time, I understood that there was much work to be done to ensure HR leaders are making a difference for their clients. Sometimes, we look at our own reflection, and don’t like what we see. I must admit, there are HR organizations that are still mired in too much paperwork, and many struggle to focus on business priorities and effectively demonstrate required competencies.
Changes have been made in HR…
Major changes have occurred in the function, however. In an attempt to free up HR time for more “value-added” engagements, many companies have outsourced compensation and benefits, policies and practices, recruiting and employee training. Other progressive companies have added employee self-service platforms, leveraged technology for routine activities and recruited those with non-traditional backgrounds to the HR team.
Yet, 10 years after the “Why I Hate HR” article was written, recent surveys of business leaders suggest that a much-too-high-percentage of them still believe that their HR teams are too tactical and don’t possess the right skills to create and execute an effective people strategy.
…but its brand has not.
Recently, I was in a session with a random group of senior executives (from different companies and industries – mid-size to large) and asked them how they would rate the effectiveness of their HR organizations today. Before they could give me a verbal response, many scrunched their noses and rolled their eyes as if they got a whiff of a very pungent smell. While I softly chuckled at the response, I appreciated their honesty. It reinforced my belief that HR as a brand is dead.
With due respect to those leaders, I believe that there actually has been quite an evolution of HR effectiveness in many companies across the globe. In the last decade, HR leaders, in partnership with progressive CEO’s, have demonstrated a stronger business acumen, have become a “strategic partner” and are more engaged in decision making as an equal partner at many executive tables. These new skills and a myriad of others designed to make HR leaders more impactful have been added to many HR competency models and HR development training curricula over the last few years. While we can admit that there is always more work to do, there are also examples of the evolution that has occurred in the function.
Newer entrants to the HR profession have proven to be more globally-focused, technologically- savvy and results-driven. Today, there are more HR professionals with MBA’s or who have migrated from roles in finance, IT or marketing than ever before. HR, in general, is no longer your grandfather’s (or father’s) personnel department, especially in this ever-changing business environment where a value differentiator will continue to be the acquisition, development and retention of the best talent.
What do you think? How has the HR function evolved over the last few years? Is it time for HR to change its brand.
(Stay tuned in two weeks as we explore this further with “6 Effective Ways to Rebrand HR”!)
For Shelle, coaching is not just her job…it is her passion. With over 25 years of experience in leading and creating meaningful change in high performance organizations, Shelle has collaborated with leaders across a wide spectrum. From CEOs and C-suite executives to developing leaders to aspiring or future leaders, Shelle uses her diverse background to instill change with her clients to achieve desired results.