Harrogate 2007 | HR profession slammed by business leaders

Crowds of HR folk piled into a packed auditorium at the CIPD conference last night to witness two of the UK’s most succesful business leaders get a grilling from Newsnight anchorman Jeremy Paxman.

Gerry Robinson – labelled a ‘turnaround expert’ after hugely successful revivals of Coca Cola UK and Granada – and former director-general Greg Dyke (pushed out of the beeb after the controversial Hutton Inquiry) were interviewed at the CIPD conference on the topic of world-class business.

How to engage staff, exercise leadership and give organisations’ personality were up for discussion – with a load of banter and laughs thrown in to please the eager audience.

But the ironic thing (and somewhat amusing experience for me), was that while HR was slated by the two business icons (it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, it gets too bogged down in policy, it doesn’t understand business needs etc), the HR audience lapped it up, with clapping outbursts galore.gerryrobinson.jpg
Gerry Robinson
Robinson actually made the brash statement: “I am not a big fan of HR”, adding: “There is a tendency for HR to try to do more than what has to be done. There is no power in HR itself other than what it can do for line management: selecting talent. But then it starts getting into grading systems – balls-aching stuff!

“HR has a tendency to get involved in things that don’t contribute to the well being of people in the company – what actually makes a difference.”

Dyke agreed that HR “sticks too closely to the rules”, following policy for policy’s sake without thinking what is actually needed.

“If HR come in [to a meeting] and say ‘this is the process’ but you say ‘b*gger the process – this is how we’re going to do it’, HR are not good at that.”

Yet the audience loved it. I was baffled.

Apart from one question at the end from an HR bod asking for good examples of HR from the two business icons, no-one really contested the fact their profession had just been absolutely stamped on.

Why is it that HR people take a bashing without standing up for themselves properly?

Robinson had one piece of advice though: “HR needs to be more straight in the way it deals with people and encourage line management to be straight and fair and honest.”

I can’t disagree with that.

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One Response to Harrogate 2007 | HR profession slammed by business leaders

  1. Margaret Stanford 14 November 2007 at 10:27 pm #

    What if HR never becomes strategic? Found this on Flipchart Fairy Tales…

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