Should HR continue to its quest to be more strategic?

The damning Dignity at Work report cuts to the very heart of HR’s identity. It raises serious questions over whether HR has gone too far in outsourcing many of its transactional, bread-and-butter activities so that it can concentrate on being strategic and proving that its efforts are having a positive impact on the bottom line.

The role of employee champion – defined by Ulrich a decade ago and updated last year to ’employee advocate’ or ‘human capital developer’ – seems to have got lost in the process.

The report doesn’t put the blame for bullying entirely at HR’s door. But it argues that having a policy on bullying, or being able to report the statistics to the board, is all very well, but if there’s no-one to actually enforce the rules, or to jump in and stop bullying when it happens, then all the well-meaning policies in the world are worthless.

You may argue that bullying should be the line managers’ responsibility, but many are not equipped to handle the more troublesome aspects of people management, or need extra support in doing so.

So what’s the answer? Could it be the appointment of work harassment advisers to monitor the workplace and report back in to HR? Or, as Royal Bank of Scotland’s Neil Roden suggests, perhaps setting up focus groups for line managers to give feedback on HR’s performance could improve communication and serve up suggestions for improvement. Maybe HR in its role as business partner can help by spotting signs of bullying before managers do, and intervening before the problem reaches crisis point. With bullying costing businesses £2bn a year in absence and staff turnover, identifying and nipping bullying in the bud, and tackling the perpetrators head-on, could be a sure-fire way for HR to add tangible value to the organisation.

E-mail us at with your views on whether HR should continue striving to become more strategic, or whether it’s time to bring out the tea and tissues.

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