‘HR bad guys’ hinder success of profession

HR directors are queuing up to admit there are more “bad” people in the profession than good, and that they limit the power of the function.

David Smith, former people director at supermarket giant Asda, last week claimed too many ‘HR baddies’ were hindering the profession’s success. In a speech at a forum hosted by HR consultancy Ceridian, Smith said many HR people were “completely inappropriate” and a “laughing stock”.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has since failed to come to the defence of the profession, stating it wished to “rise above” any HR criticism. Yet several HR chiefs have echoed Smith’s comments and expressed concern at the state of the profession.

Simon Nash, HR director at legal firm Carey Olsen, told Personnel Today he thought just one in 10 HR professionals were “really fit for purpose”, and that many people should leave the profession. “I have recently been recruiting for my team and I have been disappointed by the quality and motivations of many of the HR people I have seen,” he said.

Andrea Elliott, head of commercial HR at broadcaster ITV, added many HR professionals had progressed through the business ranks but weren’t properly qualified. “There are not enough hard-hitting HR professionals,” she said. “We are not very good in our own camp about managing people and developing [HR people].”

Other HR chiefs warned some HR people were reluctant to suggest new ways of working during the recession for fear of rocking the boat too much and losing their jobs.

Smith said: “[Many] HR people talk ‘HR speak’, and it’s meaningless. They are not well regarded by their line managers and they are a laughing stock in many companies. I suspect there are fewer good guys and more bad guys.”

However Helen Giles, HR director at homeless charity Broadway, blamed chief executives for resisting HR’s ongoing attempts to introduce better leadership across organisations.

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