A common cry among HR people is that they are ignored or dismissed within their business. It’s something that in my 30 years in HR has never gone away, and forms a staple of many an HR conference. The “how do we get a seat at the table” discussion has outlasted almost every topic or fad that the profession has debated.
For me, one of the problems is that, while HR people moan to each other about not being taken ‘seriously’, we rarely ask our colleagues, who are after all our customers, what it is they want. But, after 18 years, working with a wide variety of organisations in widely diverging industries and sectors, I’ve come to the conclusion that what most want from HR is
· To keep them legal – that means having a good knowledge of Employment Law and related regulation.
· An understanding the business and its objectives, and the ability to devise solutions to problems that achieve this.
· Good professional skills that no-one else in the business can provide – whether this is recruitment, employee development, handling a complex union negotiation, or an individual issue.
· Someone who will remind them that they are dealing with other people. It’s very easy for managers to become focused on the task and forget that other human beings are involved. Pointing out the human consequences of a business decision isn’t being a “bleeding heart” – it allows better long-term decision making and planning.
· Looking at ways things can be done, not reasons why they can’t
· Someone who brings in expertise and knowledge from outside that can ‘add value’ to the business they are working for.
Now, I’ve never conducted a formal survey among the 125+ organisations I’ve worked with, and this view is purely based on my perceptions. So I’d welcome comments from businesses – and other HR people. Perhaps if we better understood what business wants, we might finally know how to earn the mythical seat at the table.