Rita Trehan LLC
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HR’s image problem – and how to fix it

HR has (perhaps slightly unfairly) garnered a reputation for being dull, bureaucratic and risk-averse. In order to secure the industry’s future, it’s time we changed that and put the ‘human’ back into ‘human resources’.

27th Nov 2019
Rita Trehan LLC
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Man's Face In Broken Mirror
iStock/AndreyPopov

Human resources, as we currently know it, is a dinosaur in a world full of rocket ships and robots – somewhat scary, stomping around straight out of the history books.

For HR to thrive, it needs to not only be brought into the present but shot straight into the future. As long as HR as an industry remains risk-averse and reluctant to innovate, HR and its practitioners will be stuck, unable and unwilling to reach full capacity.

By getting rid of the stuffy, boring, ‘nothing but bureaucratic’ perception of HR and by highlighting just how much of an impact practitioners can have on their peers, we can make the industry far more inspiring.

Targeting students of human resources whilst they are still learning their craft can help shape HR practitioners and ultimately the profession into the form it needs to be in to succeed.

When looking for new talent, yes, we need those who are the best at what they do, however, we should also be seeking those who are thirsty for knowledge and want to make a real change in their work communities and industries. So, how do we fix HR’s image problem?

People-people

Human resources, as the name suggests, is all about managing resources, but what if we were to focus on the ‘human’ element? The focus should no longer be on resources, as in learning how and when to move commodities, but instead on championing individuals and giving them the opportunity to thrive.

For this to happen, I believe that HR practitioners need to have a full understanding of not only departmental and staff politics, but staff members as individuals.

For HR to be truly successful, employees need to know that HR practitioners are there, whether they see them or not. 

By getting rid of the stuffy, boring, ‘nothing but bureaucratic’ perception of HR and by highlighting just how much of an impact practitioners can have on their peers, we can make the industry far more inspiring.

Remember, a company is only as good as its employees. This shifts the perception away from thoughts of mounding paperwork, and instead allows HRs the freedom to really get to know their colleagues. Companies don’t need ‘HR practitioners’, they need people-people.

Finding the best talent

For me, the most exciting part of being in HR is having the ability to shape organisations. As soon as those who are new to the role – or are considering HR as a career – realise that it’s not about photocopying contracts and keeping files in check, HR becomes a magical land waiting to be explored.

When efforts are switched to talent acquisition, rather than simply the number of bums on seats, HR suddenly becomes an exciting game of long-term strategy. Practitioners have the opportunity to truly nurture staff, tailoring work and training to them as individuals.

Don’t be the invisible man (or woman)

Perceptions of HR tend to swing between one extreme and the other – they’re either poking their noses into everyone’s business or they simply aren’t there when you need them.

For HR to be truly successful, employees need to know that HR practitioners are there, whether they see them or not. It is my belief that HR practitioners should never be in the way, causing obstructions, but rather be easily accessible.

One thing an HR department should never be is invisible. Staff need to be aware of who is responsible for the most important elements of their working lives.

HRs as influencers

For whatever reason, there seems to be a disconnect between HR departments and the C-suite. Whether this is due to HR practitioners not yet being given the opportunity to develop their skill set, or even the aptitude to perform at such a high business level is unknown.

Additionally, members of the C-suite do not seem to see the impact that HR can have on staff at every level. I just cannot fathom this. Why wouldn’t you want the members of staff with the most comprehensive knowledge of both the organisation and its employees sat upon the top table?

Utilising technology to streamline and even automate tasks allows for HR practitioners to spend time reaching their own potential, as well as helping organisations as a whole to reach theirs.

As soon as HR departments are regarded as the thought leaders they should be and not simply admin workers, companies will find themselves rising to the top and quickly due to improved strategic planning.

Studies have even shown that companies actively integrating HR into their strategies benefit from 40% lower staff turnover rates and almost 40% higher employee engagement, as well as doubling their revenue per employee.

Technology is your friend

Remember when I mentioned those robots? Well, it’s time to embrace them, and in fact, a lot of us already are. Many of us are trusting the little voices that live in our devices to do tasks such as wake us up in the morning, set timers for us, and even send emails and text messages, so why is there reluctance to allow technology to help us out in our workplaces?

Utilising technology to streamline and even automate tasks allows for HR practitioners to spend time reaching their own potential, as well as helping organisations as a whole to reach theirs.

As an added benefit, the time we save by leaving the mundane and repetitive tasks to technology is time that humans get to be more human.

As it stands, HR departments have certainly been overlooked in how they can help a business reach success, but with a few tweaks – some simple and some on a larger scale – HR can survive its somewhat damaged reputation, secure its industry and change its image positively and permanently.

Interested in this topic? Read How can HR travel the right road to future work?

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