HR ‘bad guys’ hindering the success and reputation of the profession

There are more “bad people” in HR than good and they are harming the power of the function, a former HR retail chief has admitted.

David Smith, the former people director at Asda, warned the “bad guys” in the profession hindered the reputation and success of the function. Speaking at an executive forum hosted by HR consultancy Ceridian yesterday, Smith said more proactive professionals were needed to boost HR’s kudos.

He said: “A lot of people in HR are completely inappropriate and they give the profession a very bad name. They 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.

“We need to get the right people into HR who are actually the movers and shakers, rather than people who have chosen it as the default.”

HR directors at the forum agreed with Smith. They called for more training to be made available to help HR improve the value it adds to business.

Andrea Elliott, head of commercial HR at ITV, told Personnel Today: “A lot of people have fallen into HR and there are not enough hard-hitting HR professionals. There are people in the profession that are actually not doing us a service. We are not very good in our own camp about managing people and developing them.”

She added that more training was required for the many people who progress through the business ranks to HR positions without receiving specific HR qualifications, while better leadership within functions would set standards.

However, Samantha Turnbull, head of HR at business services firm BSI, added there was a lack of external training for HR people. “In the current market, it’s very hard to get financial support for training,” she said.

David Fairhurst, vice-president of people at McDonald’s, added: “My concern is that HR are not developing as fast as business needs are changing. I don’t think the [HR] skills are keeping up. We need to get more science back into the art of HR.”

During his speech, Smith said HR functions should focus on the ‘Three I’s’ going forward: integrity, innovation and impetus.

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