I Must Admit HR is Getting Better, Better all the Time!

3 May

It does not seem so long ago, maybe two or three years when HR seemed to be going through a period of great uncertainty. A lot of discussion was about why people disliked HR, why HR was not respected and why HR was not at the table. At the same time (and earlier) HR seemed troubled about HR identity and was seeking to align more closely with business partners which, in many cases, seemed to include less emphasis on people and less emphasis on the HR problem solving role and ability to respond to challenges.

HR people have been frequently criticized for being too reactive, but today, it seems, it is becoming not only respectable but critical in our constantly changing environments. New style HR people (similar to many in the past) are able to react promptly to deal with issues and in many cases convert reactive into transformative to further interests of the organization.

The improvement in HR that I have noticed, from sentiments expressed by many HR people, is a significant increase in professional confidence and renewed pride that we have distinct skills to benefit an organization. Our skills complement other functions but our skill pattern may be significantly different and being a business partner does not mean agreeing with everything presented to us. We must take a stand when necessary to support achievement of organizational goals that may sometimes differ from the direction pursued by some functional executives.

With this new, more practical thinking, we also seem to have greater confidence in looking within our function and taking steps to revitalize HR including critical evaluation of programs that may have been key to HR for many years. For example:

  • Less emphasis on large somewhat fixed HR programs (e.g. performance management) and more emphasis on a more modular approach using the integration of mainstream data rather than stand alone HR programs
  • Being fully part of the business and with high credibility HR people close to the action (ear to the ground) and at any time ready to respond to support organizational interests and deal effectively with any organizational challenges and       threats
  • Not being obsessed by being at the big table, but making sure we are at the right small tables (e.g. functional) where the action takes place and we may be involved early enough to be part of the strategic thinking and contribute positively rather than challenge after the fact when people already feel committed to the planned action. With such a strategic and business focused role, HR would automatically have a very legitimate place at the big table and the new confidence and practical support of HR would be welcomed
  • HR confidence that our specialist expertise on people issues translates into present and sustained business advantage and we are able to sell concepts in the most practical and acceptable way.  Not only employee issues, but significant focus on our community, our customer/sales focus and external resources of various kinds that may be critical and needed at any point
  • The evolving more pragmatic HR seems more ready to take a strong stand on critical matters (e.g. ethics and corporate values) and to achieve this recognizes the need to develop the appropriate negotiating and diplomacy skills. We cannot just be stubborn people in an HR world of our own (sometimes the problem with old style HR) but be straight-talking business-sensitive leaders able to gain the respect of those we deal with
  • HR is coming of age by the way we seem ready now to question all our HR beliefs. It is very difficult not to develop a bias and our bias may have matched perfectly the conventional way of doing things in the past, but be outdated based on the technological capability now available. We must grasp the opportunities and be leaders in redesigning how we do many things and how we may train and impart user confidence during a period of organizational transition.
  • The success of HR in the future may depend very much on the ability of HR to attract the right talent and be able to meet staffing needs with the minimum of delay. I would have liked to say that HR has simplified and made the process more practical, but there still seem to be major philosophic differences between different HR people. There are HR people who make the selection process very complicated and try to match such things as attitude. There are others who support a simpler and more objective process. The key to success would be HR’s contribution to effective organizational design to ensure that the culture of the organization is able to assimilate most employees, regardless of different styles. I believe trending, particularly, by HR generalists, is moving more towards a simpler recruiting process, but at this point, opinions continue to be very divided

I must admit HR is getting better – it’s getting better all the time! I offer some thoughts on this subject which I believe are supported by many modern day HR realists and seem consistent with the beliefs of many HR students who, of course, will soon be setting the HR trends for tomorrow. HR improvement is dependent on realistically acknowledging evolving business and people differences and expectations and balancing them in the most appropriate way. Success of HR depends on us knowing who we are, what we can do and to updating and adapting much of what is already in place to reflect the present as it is and move confidently into the future. I believe an increasing number of HR people are committed to change and that gives reason to feel confidence about the future of our profession.

Thank you for your interest. I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.




9 Responses to “I Must Admit HR is Getting Better, Better all the Time!”

  1. Rchilliparser May 4, 2015 at 12:34 pm #

    Hey Ian, must-say a thorough read. There’s so much that goes inside today’s HR but you made it so easy.

    • ianclive May 4, 2015 at 1:24 pm #

      Thank you very much for your comment. I appreciate your positive words and feedback.

      Very best wishes,


      • Mark Shaw May 6, 2015 at 1:27 am #

        Hi Ian

        Welcome from “Down Under”. As always your comments are thought-provoking. I’d like to make 2 comments:

        In my humble experience:
        (1) The only philosophical challenge in making HR simpler and more meaningful is HR Practitioners trying to protect their jobs. Aspects of HR will become more simple, if only through technology. While it may take time, HR Practitioners that do not evolve will perish.

        (2) Forget change! Go for alignment. I.e. if the organisation’s need change, what is HR doing to align the actual work and associated policies and practices to the new needs? Do that and feel confidence about the future of our profession.


  2. Charlie Judy, SPHR (@HRFishbowl) May 5, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

    thanks for saying a good word or two about this fine profession. despite your optimism, i’m afraid that “hating on HR” is still a favorite pastime. it’s muscle memory that will still need some time to reverse. and i still think HR has been held to a higher standard than most other support functions – as if the woes of work are entirely their responsibility. it’s convenient to blame someone – why not HR?

  3. Amoi Alawoya May 6, 2015 at 8:22 pm #

    I like the idea that HR doesn’t have to be so complicated. Especially recruiting. I highly agree. More creative approaches but less complicated.

  4. ianclive May 9, 2015 at 10:43 pm #

    Thank you very much Mark, Charlie and Amoi. I apologize that I was not around for a few days and was unable to respond promptly to your very welcome and wise comments.
    Very best wishes,

  5. Colin Finlay May 14, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

    Excellent read Ian. Your thoughts and perceptions have always been noteworthy.

  6. mindy May 14, 2015 at 10:49 pm #

    Ian, totally enjoyed the read…we all have to strive for adaptive capacity…as I like to say…

    • ianclive May 15, 2015 at 1:36 am #

      Thank you so much, Mindy. That is so true!
      Very best wishes,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: