HR needs to spend time nurturing its own needs

Developing people is critical to performance improvement. We say this all the time. In fact, we might as well stick it on a tee-shirt and wear it to save repeating ourselves. And, of course, we mean it. Don’t we?

But let’s be honest. How many of us, as HR people, can hand-on-heart say that we devote the same time and energy to developing ourselves as we do for everyone else in the organisation? There’s management development, leadership initiatives, HR policies and procedures, graduates and fast-stream programmes.

But what about us? Who, if not us, is sitting in a room somewhere discussing investment in their HR team? Cobblers’ children always have the shoddiest shoes and doctor’s children need to be at death’s door before they’re considered worthy of any medical intervention. And HR’s children?

The competitive edge always comes down to the people in our organisations. So how much investment should be made in those responsible for the people side of the business? How many companies have a formalised development programme for their HR team, one that takes its line from the business strategy, and dedicates resources to managing that programme?

For too long in my HR career, HR staff have been developed according to their own initiative and that of their immediate manager, If we are to practise what we preach, however, we need to demonstrate a real commitment to identifying the gaps we have, tackling them, and evaluating the costs and benefits.

At the Crown Prosecution Service we have introduced a human resources development plan based on six elements: personal behaviour; professional competence; technical/specialist knowledge; leadership and management skills; business knowledge; and team-building.

Using a combination of training needs analysis and 360-degree feedback, a tailored development programme can address individual and group needs. With a managed process, the level of skills, knowledge and teamworking will be increased systematically and consistently, with measurable outcomes for both the individuals taking part and the organisation.

It’s got to be real, of course, as all the theory in the world won’t do our HR people any good when they need to relate to a manager facing a crisis. We place emotional intelligence (or ‘common sense’ for those who hate the jargon), high on our priority list of attributes for our staff, but we need to set the highest standards of professional and personal behaviour for all HR staff and ensure that we deliver the highest quality outcomes for our organisations every day. It is both what we deliver and how we deliver it that makes the difference between an okay and a world-class HR service.

It seems so simple, and I can’t think why we didn’t do it years ago. We were probably too busy thinking of everyone else.

Angela O’Connor is HR director at Crown Prosecution Service

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