HR must stand and fight for right to be taken seriously

Martin Tiplady’s opinion (Opinion, Personnel Today, 17 April) that the service-centre type structure is the only show in town – especially when combined with the assertion that it’s time we all stopped navel-gazing and developed some ‘attitude’ – is representative of the narrow-minded view that has almost certainly contributed to the HR profession scoring so poorly in the City & Guilds Happiness Index (News, Personnel Today, 17 April).

Two factors need to be considered.

First, where is the hard empirical evidence that the outsourced HR model actually delivers the benefits it was claimed it would bring? The recent Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development report, The Changing HR Function: the key questions, suggests that, at whichever level is chosen to measure success (reduced HR headcount, lower costs, improved performance, removing the transactional burden to allow HR managers to be transformed into business partners, etc), good evidence is in short supply, and that serious doubts are beginning to emerge.

It’s worth noting that business services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers said in 2006 that “there is little hard data at this time to suggest that shared-service operations produce any mainstream benefits”.

Second, on a more subjective level, where is the anecdotal evidence from organisations that have outsourced HR and can point to clear improvements in service when compared with previous in-house provision?

To suggest that HR should stifle such debate is to make a fundamental mistake. If, as Tiplady (and presumably the majority of those of us in the HR profession) hopes, we are to survive the current doldrums, then as well as getting “a whole deal wiser to the business”, we need to have the courage to ask ourselves some uncomfortable questions and to respond to the challenges. Merely to “shut up and die like an HR manager” is not an appropriate response in the 21st century.

Graham Salisbury, HR manager

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