Lack of HR intellect

I recently attended a high-level HR conference to get stuck into some meaty business issues. The session – ‘Improving organisational effectiveness: how to align HR and business policy’ – had really caught my eye.

The panel kicked off the debate intelligently, sharing tips on how HR can add value to the business model. And then we moved to questions from the floor – a roomful of 100-plus UK HR directors.

What would the first query be, I wondered, pen poised to capture the collective thoughts of the cream of HR?

“Is HR the right name for our function?” came the lamest of interrogations. I could feel the sense of deflation as the debate was immediately reduced to this lowest common denominator. This was HR strategy Jade Goody-style. I rested my pen as the panel politely responded and the chairman hurried things along. “Next question please!”

“Who should HR report to?” boomed the embarrassed sound system.

Is this the best that HR can muster, I stewed? What would the country’s top CEOs think of us if they tuned in to this debate and heard us bickering about job titles and status, rather than pondering the true value of business partnering?

The debate finally managed to rescue itself some semblance of dignity with questions about cross-fertilisation with line management and the challenges of globalisation. But I truly worry about the calibre of senior HR if this discussion was representative of our intellect.

We must get out of our comfort zone and offer real support to our stakeholders. Otherwise we’ll just be laughed at and treated like the petty administrators I sometimes think we secretly yearn to be.


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