Per The Balance, "Liking people is not the only qualification for pursuing a career in Human Resources. It helps, but it is insufficient for success. HR jobs and careers continue to grow in sophistication, and the expectations of employers increase every year.
Your ability to contribute to employee development, organization development, employee retention, and a positive, motivating work environment are critical to business success. Consequently, these are expectations of the contributions of HR staff.
And, most importantly for the future, your expertise in measuring how HR processes and programs will contribute to the success of the overall business is critical to the success of the business."
HR professionals are under increasing pressure to add professional development, culture enhancement, talent retention and integration of Values to their core responsibilities... and with very little budget or support from the top to achieve these goals.
If we (business) are to truly achieve long-term stability and maximise our output and profitability, there is an issue that needs to be placed on the table and discussed openly when it comes to HR, and that is the reality that many HR Professionals are talking to each other about...
I met with a group of HR professionals (who were too nervous to be named) and I listened to how they feel 'let down' by their employers who instruct them to sell 'we care' to the staff, when in reality there is no care at all. Openly at times, they are instructed to 'make it appear as if...' They know the staff see through the facade, and yet the theatre continues. They are constantly compromised between what they know is the 'right thing' to do and the delivery of what they have been instructed to do. Like the employees they are serving, they too need their job and so they are trapped in the cycle of BS (as they called it) until they find a HR role in a company that actually delivers. "But these roles and companies are hard to find."
Worse than seeing through the facade of 'we care' is the absolute knowledge that the business doesn't care.
High-end Managers treating their people unfairly is not uncommon. The employee should feel protected by the actual written policies of the business that employs them (often there is a contradiction between what is written and what is done in this regard), the HR department and employment law; but money and power can leverage a variety of outcomes and still today employees whose leaders are breaching the law are threatened or shut-down or buried by legal process that they cannot afford to fight.
The middle tier of leaders are often those who are most disgruntled. They have worked their butts off to climb the ranks, believing that when they were in a position of influence, they would be the ones to make a difference; only to find that they too are disempowered and directed to replicate the cycle.
Glassdoor published 50 HR and Recruiting Stats for 2016 and they report:
This shows us that most of our executive leaders 'get it' when it comes to the need to provide more than a job, but that they don't know how to do that. The companies participating in this research have HR Departments, this therefore also tells us that HR is failing to guide its executives in this regard. And per the group of HR Professionals I interviewed - they are totally frustrated by this.
A bi-product of the facade of caring, is the changed attitude towards HR. Employees no longer see HR as their advocates and go-to places for guidance and support. There is a feeling of mis-trust along with a beige hue of 'what's the point?'. "HR is seen as the face of the beast", said one of the HR Professionals I interviewed... "I have had an executive say to my face, that we are there to protect the upper management and the company - it's a boys club and the boys provide for and protect each other". Another interviewee said she had been called a "Board Room Muppet" and "your job is to feed us BS and hope we believe it."
I have had the opportunity to work with very few organisations who truly empower HR and have them sit at the C-Suit table and participate in the 'top down' planning and delivery of people programs. More often HR sits under a GM and is given a budget and a set of outcomes to deliver, but they stand-alone rather than become an integrated model of performance. A progressive HR Manager can be a nuisance to the business of doing business in organisations that don't yet understand the need to engage its people fully.
So what can be done?
HR is no longer a 'one size fits all' proposition.
The skills taught to HR Professionals are not enough (agreed all of those I interviewed). Neither is the value given to it by the top level leaders. Generalist HR skills are too watered down to be able to deliver top shelf outcomes. It's like employing a home-cook in a 5 star Michelin Restaurant.
HR can and should, in my opinion, be disbanded into pockets of specialised capabilities. No longer should we have on HR person or department that takes responsibility for the total people plan. Instead, in my ideal world, it would have the following:
Hiring, on-boarding, employment contracts, professional reviews, HR policies, OH&S. 2-3 days a week.
2. Technical Development.
On-the-job training (internal or external) to keep skills & knowledge alive, integrated and shared within the organisation. Benchmarking roles to industry standards locally and globally. 2 days per week.
3. Personal Development.
People like me would be working in an organisation, to be the staff go-to and confidante, mentor and coach. Bridging the me into the we. Growing people beyond their self-imposed boundaries and teaching them 'how' to lead themselves and others. 1-2 day per week.
The technical go-to for all things employment law for the business and the employees. 1 day per month.
As a Leadership Coach / Mentor / Confidante, I can share from experience, that Executives do NOT share-all with HR, in fact they often report they are playing 'the game' with HR for the most part. They temper their conversations with HR, believing that those conversations will 'get back' to the upper levels, so they are trying to control what gets back. Only when I assure the executive that what they share with me is safe, and then prove this to be the case in time, do they open up fully and trust. Here in the space of trust, I (the coach) am able to bring wider perspective to their point of focus, often returning them to their desk in a much clearer position. They are given the 'how' to better engage themselves and / or their people and get out of their own way.
HR often have been given the green-light to spend money on a training program or something similar. "How is this useful when we (the HR people) are not then allowed to integrate the program learnings into our operational behaviours!!" says an interviewee.
There is hope. (There's always hope.) It only takes one person / organisation of influence to say 'enough' and set a new standard for all others to follow. The masses need evidence; proof that doing things a new way will produce better results. The problem with this fact is that we are left in limbo, waiting for someone to show the way.
The cost of limbo is loss. High calibre executives are leaving corporate to start their own ventures. They are tired of the game playing and the lack of people programs that truly care, so they start their own.
I am looking to interview businesses who are doing things in a new way. By collecting and then sharing stories from those who are achieving great results, the wind of change can pick up.
I'm here to play my part in that change - are you?
To be interviewed by Helen for the 'How HR Is Winning' book - please contact Helen here.