This week's letters
Call it a day on 'teddy bear HR'
I see that Personnel Today recently launched a section called HR Strategy Forum (see page 16 of this week's edition). I hope it has been earmarked by your readers because today, there is a strong message for HR in this country: it is time to evolve and move on. Don't hang on to the old for old-time's sake.
The UK perception of HR has often been seen as a 'safe' job. Careers counsellors see it as 'sensible', parents see it as 'responsible' and everyone else views it as potentially boring. HR was the epitome of the 'fur-lined rut' job - a one-track safe, warm and comfortable job with no challenges beyond its narrow confines.
Exposure to new ways of working by candidates from more inclusive and community-focused countries means that sweet, ineffectual 'teddy bear HR' in the UK may soon be over.
Competition is entering the UK from countries where HR has regular and sustained interaction with external stakeholders. Dealing with customers, suppliers, investors and the community is considered part of the job description.
There is, for example, the more holistic, creative and external approach in South Africa and the Scandinavian block.
In South Africa, it is not unusual for HR at management level to have active involvement in the community in which employees reside.
"Ten years ago in South Africa, my role as HR manager with De Beers Industrial Diamonds, and Pilkington Glass, involved active participation in local community, welfare and education bodies. Additional work as vice-president of the local chamber of commerce, and then as industrial labour representative for the South Africa Chamber of Commerce, helped me to provide positive impact on behalf of employees," reads one CV.
Here is a new breed of HR: the people services director/executive who adds to the long-term strategic direction of the organisation.
Back in the UK, it is clear that being responsible for an organisation's people also means helping to shape the culture of your organisation. In turn, HR needs to be aware of the external influences shaping the organisation.
Take note too that HR will move beyond the collation of personnel data, benefits, etc. To make a strategic difference, the HR manager needs to speak the same language as the other members of the board - finance, IT and marketing/communications -