Welfare to work gives HR the opportunity to shine

After years of navel gazing, introspection and generally being roundly ignored by those at the top, it seems that HR’s role as wallflower in the world of work is finally coming to an end.

Following swiftly on the heels of last week’s revelation that Work Foundation research has proved beyond doubt how HR really can be good for business, the fact that a key government adviser sees HR as having a potentially pivotal role in helping welfare-to-work providers ease the unemployed back into meaningful work shows just how perceptions of HR are changing for the better.

And any HR practitioners still doubting how crucial their role is – fretting about whether their opinions count for toffee with senior executives, worrying if they’re worthy of a seat at the top table, or pondering the merits of admitting that they actually do work in HR at dinner parties – need only point to the latest move made by the Department for Work and Pensions as it bids to get more of the long-term unemployed back to work.

Clearly, achieving this will present a different set of challenges to those arising when dealing with people used to operating in the world of work. But the key skills of the HR practitioner could provide the ideal buffer zone between these potentially reluctant recruits and their equally reticent employers.

This new-found interest in the restorative powers of HR should be seized upon as the not-to-be-missed, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that it might well turn out to be – a chance to have a positive influence on society as a whole, as well as providing a more public forum for demonstrating how effective HR can add to the bottom line – even in smaller organisations.

It’s up to you to make sure HR is not left on the sidelines and that, when called up to do so, it can deliver and show it that really does have the ‘oomph’ to make a real difference.

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