The world of HR is always changing. And so it should. And must. After all, Human Resources, as a functional department, was formed over two hundred years ago. When large factories became the way of the future, employers needed a clearcut way to motivate employees - and that motivation came down to job satisfaction. What was good for the individual was good for the company.
There are many reasons why the HR landscape has evolved since then, not the least of them being changes in laws, working conditions and employee rights. On top of that, developments in technology have altered the business landscape altogether. Today, there are even bigger changes afoot. Managers and leaders have to act in the best interests of their global teams.
But you know all of this. What you may not know, or may not want to know, is that HR is getting a seriously bad reputation. It has lost the trust of employers, and of the employees who turn to it. And the blame falls squarely at the feet of business leaders.
HR is getting a seriously bad reputation. It has lost the trust of employers, and of the employees who turn to it. And the blame falls squarely at the feet of business leaders.
"CEOs know that they depend on their company’s human resources to achieve success. Businesses don’t create value; people do. But if you peel back the layers at the vast majority of companies, you find CEOs who are distanced from and often dissatisfied with their chief human resources officers and the HR function in general," states an article by Ram Charan, Dominic Barton and Dennis Carey in Harvard Business Review. "CEOs worldwide see human capital as a top challenge, and yet they rank HR as only the eighth or ninth most important function in a company. That has to change."
Josh Bersin, Principal and Founder of Bersin by Deloitte, agrees. In fact, he says that the entire HR industry needs an extreme makeover. During his talk at the Association of Learning Providers’ conference in Arizona earlier this year, Bersin outlined many reasons why the HR department as we know it is failing.
Among them is the fact that learning and development is not up to snuff. Commercial messages aren't being communicated within businesses effectively, and HR is no longer close enough to employees to form a bond that works. In short, the reason why HR was developed in the first place – to ensure happy and productive employees – seems to have been forgotten altogether.
But we can't forget that a company is only as good as its people. That's why, on Bersin's agenda, was the need to discuss how we work together as an industry to re-establish HR's prominence and reinvent its role. In addition to sharing industry-leading HR practices that are breaking the mould, leaders need to shine a spotlight on the importance of HR's position as a custodian of talent. It is up to us to make HR look good.
So how should HR continue to evolve? According to the 2015 Human Capital Trends report released by Deloitte, “today’s HR organisation must be agile, business-integrated, data-driven, and deeply skilled in attracting, retaining, and developing talent.” The report continues: “to put it bluntly, HR often cannot keep up with the pace of change in business. HR needs to raise its game by aligning its skills and capabilities with the organisation’s overall business goals. As HR pursues its own makeover, its role must also change to meet the intense pressures of today’s business environment."
And here are four ways to do just that:
1. Leaders and HR professionals should live and breathe best practice development for their own people. Become the laboratory for developing ideas and new ways of learning. Cobblers’ children should have shoes, just as the HR team should invest in the development of its own talent.
2. Focus on the critical weaknesses in the HR function and hothouse ways to do them better. This means failing fast to succeed in developing new ways of improving HR. Try new things to explore the art of the possible.
3. Raise the bar for your HR goals. Too often, HR is being dumbed down into a transactional exchange moving farther and farther away from face-to-face contact. Transformational HR gets up close and personal. This means getting involved in earlier decisions and seeing them through. In other words, be the change you want to see.
4. Invest in systems that allow you to get training up and running and focus spending on critical roles. Invest in your HR people and have them invest in theirs. Make sure your HR team knows how to conduct HR analytics and use case study-based simulations to engage in fierce conversations that influence. Above all, remember that change may start in the classroom, but it comes to life in hearts and minds.
At its core, human resources is a business function that recruits, manages, leads, nurtures and supports the people within an organisation. Given this fact, it's time to put HR back in its place - an entirely necessary part of any successful business that values the people who power it.