So, does HR have oomph? Personnel Today conducted a survey of more than 300 HR professionals to find out whether those people working in the profession think it does, in comparison with other business functions.
‘Oomph’, is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “the quality of being exciting and energetic”. In practice, someone who possesses oomph exudes power, strength and confidence and, as you will read on the right, you have come up with plenty more definitions of your own. But who has it?
Our survey found that the HR department has more oomph than any other function within organisations, according to HR professionals themselves.
Some 69% of respondents said their HR department has oomph, compared with 64% who said the marketing department has oomph, and 62% who said the sales department has oomph.
Only 26% of HR professionals think their colleagues in IT have oomph, however, and just 20% believe that the finance department demonstrates oomph.
Oomph in the office
Whether professionals in these other departments agree with HR’s assessment is a different matter.
HR’s oomph doesn’t necessarily come from its leadership. HR directors are ranked sixth for oomph (69% of respondents say they have oomph) in a list of senior business leaders behind chief executives (79%), managing directors (76%), sales directors (75%), chairmen (71%) and marketing directors (70%).
Finance directors (49%) and IT directors (44%) suffer by comparison.
Neither is HR’s oomph generated by its industry body. Just 44% of respondents believe that the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has oomph. A slightly higher figure (47%) believe the CBI has that quality.
Much of HR’s oomph is obviously derived from its practitioners. The survey respondents gave themselves a clean bill of oomph, with 90% saying they personally demonstrate the characteristic in the workplace, and 79% saying they take their oomph home with them. And around three-quarters (73%) believe that oomph increases with experience.
So what does it mean to have oomph in an HR context?
Nearly all the respondents (99%) agreed that oomph is a desirable quality in an HR professional. And a similar number (98%) believe that having oomph gives HR more influence with the senior management team.
Slightly fewer respondents (95%) say that oomph gets HR respect from line managers, and the same proportion agree that having oomph helps HR professionals overcome obstacles.
Sadly, though, nearly half of HR professionals (48%) believe that working in the HR function can “knock the oomph out of people”.
We asked HR professionals which personality or public figure has the most oomph to create a ‘Top 10 of oomph’. Responses were unprompted.
1 Sir Richard Branson – the trioomphant Virgin king
2 Sir Alan ‘You’re Fired’ Sugar – Amstrad chief executive
3 Madonna – Mrs Guy Ritchie and wannabe actress… oh yes, and she can sing a bit
4 Bill ‘I did not have sex’ Clinton – former US president
5= Tony Blair – former UK prime minister
5= Jose Mourinho – enigmatic Chelsea Football Club manager
7= Simon Cowell – high-waisted pop svengali
7= Sir Bob Geldof – unkempt saviour of the developing world
7= Jamie Oliver – school dinners supremo
7= Gordon Ramsay – former Rangers goalkeeper, TV presenter and sometime chef
Definitions of oomph
Personnel Today may have coined the phrase ‘HR with oomph’, but we were keen to let our readers help us define it.
We asked respondents: ‘What does oomph mean to you in the context of HR?’ Here is a selection of their replies:
- “Being business-focused, progressive and innovative. Having a strong belief in what you are delivering.”
- “Being critical, proactive and supportive, while still being expected to firefight for the ‘oomphteenth’ time without complaining.”
- “Ending the day with the same energy and thrill about succeeding as you started the day.”
- “Being able to show ‘muscle’ by leading on strategy and delivering real results, thus being a value-added consultancy, rather than seen as a cost commodity.”
- “Enthusiasm that carries people along with your ideas and work, and which helps you achieve your objectives.”
- “Having presence and commanding attention through your natural skills.”
- “Get up and go being able to stay energetic in the face of draining situations and having the ability to motivate others to do what you need them to do.”
- “Standing out from the crowd and being seen as integral to organisational strategy and customer service delivery.”
Respondents used many adjectives to define oomph. So here is Personnel Today’s thesaurus entry for oomph:
Oomph: Committed, confident, creative, credible, determined, driven, dynamic, energetic, enjoyable, enthusiastic, forward-thinking, inclusive, influential, innovative, inspirational, involving, passionate, persuasive, proactive, professional, visible, visionary.