Business leaders are finally waking up to the realisation of what we’ve been telling them all along – that people issues are the key to their organisations’ success. This is great news for the credibility of the HR profession which, as we know all too well, can struggle to be heard at the top table.
But it may also pose a new threat. If chief executives suddenly perceive HR as the ‘new’ value-add, they may well be tempted to muscle in on that territory themselves, squeezing out the real experts.
Combine this situation at the top end of HR with the computerisation and outsourcing of its administrative function and a doomsday scenario suddenly appears, with HR departments retreating into an uncomfortable middle ground that’s neither strategic nor clerical.
However, it would be pessimistic in the extreme to take this view too seriously. Only the most “glass half empty” of HR professionals will perceive that their careers are at risk because their role is getting more important.
This is perhaps the defining moment for HR strategists, and they should seize the opportunity it presents to gain influence and determine the direction of their organisations. Now is the time to exude confidence, win arguments, control budgets and claim a place at the right hand of the chief executive.
Sure, a few jobbing frauds will be found out and subsequently lose control of their departments, but that will do nothing worse than raise the professionalism and reputation of HR generally.
Internal influence isn’t everything, and we mustn’t get too distracted by how HR can improve its standing within an organisation – after all, there is still a day job to be done. But neither is it wrong to present positive arguments about how we can make a big difference to performance and, ultimately, the bottom line.