Be seen and heard or face extinction

recently read a report, which, while not hugely scientific and a bit
American-centric, made worrying reading for HR the world over.

research by online career centre Execunet indicates that job demand for senior
HR executives fell in 2001 by more then 36 per cent on the previous year. Only
IT had a bigger drop. Since the firm started tracking such data in 1997, HR has
either trailed the averages in growth or led them in contraction every year.

the CEO calls in the finance director to talk about reducing cost structures,
the dialogue frequently raises two key questions: "Where can we afford to
make cuts?" and "Where can we not afford to make cuts?".
Usually, those departments not seen to be adding value – particularly if they
have failed to market themselves – are brought up in those discussions. In many
cases it is HR.

course, there are many organisations where HR is doing a stellar job, but it is
toiling in the background and going dangerously unnoticed. I believe HR has an obligation
to itself and its company to market and position its work and its successes in
a visible way.

is typical that as personnel data is established and improvements documented,
monthly updates are sent out to the HR team. But does the team then share these
results with their line managers? Just as quarterly numbers are circulated from
the finance team, quarterly statistics and highlights should be circulated from

J Randall MacDonald (now at IBM) was head of HR at telecoms giant GTE, he introduced
one of the most robust HR scorecards I’ve seen. It took clear measures from
every corner of HR and rolled them into a four-page report which was
distributed around the company. It meant that when discussions took place on
which areas of the business were adding value, there was never a question about
what HR did, what its value was, and how it was improving.

HR fails to market its value, business could well marginalise it, or
rationalise it completely. The administrative function of HR’s remit is already
being outsourced to the Accentures and Exults of this world. Furthermore, many
employee-centric areas of ‘traditional HR’ are being redirected to intranet
sites, where employees are given self-service privileges. In many
organisations, primary manager tools are now Web-based, no longer requiring HR

leaves the profession with highly specialised areas such as employment law and
employee relations – these are hard areas to quantify.

HR has to become more adept at voicing the value of good HR, proving to the
board that HR actively participates – and leads – in the company’s mission.
This is essential to its survival as a profession.

Lance Richards, member of the board of directors for SHRM Global Forum and the Editorial
Advisory Board of Personnel Today sister publication GlobalHR

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