Acknowledging that HR gets things right is rarely done. As it’s the season of goodwill and this is my last comment for Personnel Today, I would like to pay tribute to the major step changes the profession has made in recent years.
In observing HR since 1998, it has manifestly grown in confidence and influence. Inevitably, government and competitive pressures have driven much of this shift, but HR should nonetheless be proud of how it has adapted as a critical business player and what it has achieved in a short space of time.
Looking back to the late 1990s, much of HR was bogged down in administrative tasks, reacting to directions from the business and, at times behaving in a dangerously conservative and defensive manner.
Negative views of HR still exist, but not on the same scale as before, and there’s evidence everywhere you look of more proactive HR teams, thinking and acting strategically and adding real value. Today’s practitioners and directors are more professional, operate with more business rigour and are highly specialized in comparison to their predecessors.
The melting pot of workforce pressures has not changed a great deal, but the way they are handled in a customer-centred, performance-obsessed world certainly has. Arguments may persist about whether the 21st century approach to employee relations is more morally or ethically better than in the past, but the new focus on consultation and involvement has empowered the working population and made jobs more stimulating and rewarding.
It’s also given people management the prominence it deserves, both in business and among the general public, which has no doubt helped those HR professionals eager to grab the opportunities.
In my time as editor, the bugbears have been pretty minor really – the HR jargon, the lack of strong role models and too much sitting on the fence. But we’ve discovered a colourful, energetic community hiding behind some tired, old dry and woolly stereotypes.
Above all, HR has learned to be more self critical, frequently questioning itself and addressing weaknesses. This is an essential change which needs nurturing as HR has played the wounded victim and beleaguered profession for far too long.
The future is about ambition, passion and courage. A more audacious profession would go a long way to aspiring to those bigger goals and so true recognition will follow.
It’s been a privilege to be part of this journey and I look forward to watching how the next part of the adventure unfolds.
The whole Personnel Today team would like to thank readers and advertisers for your fantastic support this year and wish you all a relaxing Christmas and prosperous 2005.
By Jane King, editor