Monday, 24 January 2011

HR Professionals: Second Class Citizens

It's official: HR professionals are great. Of course, business partners are even better.

Those are not my words, but those of a full-page advert in the £60,000+ appointments section of the current edition of People Management for a number of roles with Tesco.

As People Management is an official publication of the CIPD, we can safely assume that the advert has been sanctioned by the CIPD as reflecting the image that it wishes to promote of the future of the HR function.

So, for those of you who don't see yourselves as Business Partners, it looks like you're condemned to a life in the wings, playing out your inferior role as an HR Professionals, while the big boys strut their stuff centre stage with the stars of the show.

And sadly this obsession with reshaping the HR function along Business Partner lines is not restricted to the nation's supermarkets.

A recent report by Mercer suggests that we should be concerned that  HR directors "spend only 15 per cent of time on strategic work." In the survey, despite 65 per cent of respondents considering themselves as strategic partners to their organisations, the average proportion of time spent on strategic work was only 15 per cent.

HR directors spend only 15 per cent of time on strategic work

It seems that the largest proportion of their time was spent delivering HR services.

What a pain that must be. Just think of all the time wasted on making sure that people are recruited, rewarded, motivated, engaged and developed effectively. Such trivia that we can all do without.

And just think of all those fortunate ones in the Commercial and Finance functions, where everyone spends 100% of their time being strategic, without the need to ensure that contracts are correctly written up, or invoices issued.

I leave you with the words of an excellent article by Graham White (HR director at Westminster City Council) where he cogently argues that "the truth is business partnering doesn’t work"
Who will join me in a cup of Horlicks and a dream in which HR becomes accountable for tangible contribution, and is assessed against real, measurable targets?
HR model: dream or nightmare?

Horlicks Original Malt (300g) costs £1.99 in Tesco.


  1. I'm not sure any sanctioning went on Graham. The CIPD's own recruitment advertising is shambolic. Ok, so it's not for an HR person but how about this for a senior role posted on twitter... ....over 200 lines of cut & pasted job description for a Head of Publishing. This one is little better.

    Considering that CIPD is meant to be the beacon of the HR industry you'd think they'd take a bit more care over how they advertise, particularly for senior level positions, but when I enquired about why that first ad was so poor I was told words to the effect of "our CMS doesn't give us much scope to be creative"!

  2. I get the impression that Mr Editor Graham shares the view of his namesake from Westminster City Council!

    Must admit I am inclined to agree. I work in an organisation that has more BP’s than you could shake a stick at. And whilst I’m sure there are some that make a positive contribution to the business, I could probably put the rest into two camps: at best ‘sorters’ whose role seems mainly to involve picking up issues and acting as a conduit between the business and HR and at worst ‘meddlers’ who get involved in things that are best supported by the central HR teams who actually have the up to date knowledge and expertise!

    But hey, what do I know? Perhaps sexy HR just ain’t for me.

    Now, lets get down to the important stuff - budge up, I like mine hot!