Time has come to evolve or die

When a Getty Images recruitment advert shunned IPD qualifications last year,
a full-blown HR debate was triggered. Here, Getty’s HR director Ralph Tribe
responds

When we at Getty Images placed the recruitment advert for HR people
"with teeth" we had no idea that it would cause such a stir.

The strange thing is that while there appears to be some heated discussion
on the issue of HR qualifications versus business acumen, when you look more
closely at the debate, the two elements look more closely aligned than one
might imagine. Pity that things got a little bogged down in semantics, then,
but it is a small price to pay for the richness of dialogue.

The simple position that we hold, along it seems with just about everybody
else out there, is that in order to be truly effective as a function,
specialist HR skills need to be aligned behind specific business challenges,
rather than ahead of them. Developing best practice for its own sake looks very
fetching on paper, but really is not very helpful.

Sorry if this way of thinking comes across as divisive, defensive or
controversial, but from experience this is what makes the difference between
success or failure for HR teams supporting organisations where the luxury of
incremental change is the exception rather than the rule.

We should be united in a common cause – professional development that places
as much emphasis on understanding and applying: consultancy skills; project
management; relationship management, technological innovation and pragmatic
business savvy; as it does on pure HR theory.

But are HR qualifications really necessary to prove our credibility? I am
not convinced. I am IPD-qualified, but the people who have taught me most about
how to build HR credibility during my career did not have IPD qualifications.
They were just great managers who fully understood the relationship between
people and business success.

As a profession we take "predictive validity" very seriously – so
show me the predictive validity of the current IPD qualification. I am not
saying that it is a bad thing, I am just saying that it might be meaningless on
its own as a predictor of commercially measured success in the job.

On a similar note, we are currently rushing towards "Chartered"
status for the HR profession. But again, what will this really do for us? My
fear is that it will actually undermine our credibility rather than build it.
The general business community may lift its eyebrows in contempt if it
perceives this as a beleaguered profession creating an artificial barrier to
entry in order to survive in the 21st Century.

The best way forward is surely to embrace diversity, and what it can
potentially do for the HR function, by encouraging the best people from any
discipline to join us – if new blood helps us innovate, I am all for it. Let’s
face it, effective and impressive human resources management is generally about
applying common sense, sensitive, creative, people based solutions in a
commercial context.

Human resources management will never become extinct as a concept – it has
become far too important. Much of what HR people do, however, is better
outsourced or automated these days, and many of the traditional models and
theories we work to are losing pace in a world that moves faster every day.

As the world diversifies any single "best practice" fits fewer and
fewer situations. And as we stand together at the dawn of a new millennium, the
time has come to evolve or die.

• Ralph Tribe is HR director at Getty Images

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