The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has mounted a strong defence of the human resources (HR) profession following an astonishing public attack by entrepreneur Luke Johnson.
Writing in the Financial Times last week under the headline ‘The truth about the HR department’, Johnson – chairman of Channel 4 and head of private equity firm Risk Capital Partners – launched a scathing critique. He labelled human resources a “necessary evil”, and a term “that should strike fear into the heart of every self-respecting entrepreneur”. He even compared HR’s power within an organisation to that of the CIA and the Israeli intelligence service Mossad.
“HR is like many parts of modern business: a simple expense, and a burden on the backs of the productive workers,” he wrote. “They don’t sell or produce: they consume.”
However, CIPD director-general Geoff Armstrong said well-managed people made the difference between winners and losers in today’s turbulent global economy. “But managing people well doesn’t happen by chance. It relies on HR people putting in place the evidence-based practices necessary to create effective leaders, excellent line managers and productive teams,” he said. “I suspect Luke Johnson knows this more than his article suggests.”
What prompted the attack is unclear, but Johnson’s column praised the book Up the Organisation by Robert Townsend, former president of car rental firm Avis, which advocated firing the HR department to boost business performance.
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