I have had enough. If you had asked me up until very recently how I would
describe myself, I would have said that I was an HR professional.
But the problem is there are now too many people calling themselves HR
professionals – who do nothing to improve the way we manage HR – and they are
giving the rest of us a bad name. It is time to call a halt and reveal these
pretenders for what they are. Their abuse of the title of HR has gone too far.
Like many HR people, I used to enter the debate on whether we should be
called personnel or HR. I used to do this in a vain attempt to distinguish my
own brand of HR from that pale, administrative model peddled by the CIPD, which
has now achieved chartered status. If that is what a royal charter stands for
then I want none of it. While the CIPD may be the voice of the personnel
profession, it is not the voice of HR in business.
Whatever you call yourself, the agglomeration of activities under the HR
umbrella is now so vast and incoherent that the label has lost any last vestige
of meaning it may have had.
Real HR professionals grapple with organisational issues, while personnel
people do their level best to deliver efficient administration. Meanwhile,
knowledge management, measuring and managing human capital, organisational
design and corporate social responsibility are all being done in the name of
HR. But most of it is being done very badly by people who do not possess the
skills to do it properly.
So, for me, enough is enough – whatever HR used to mean is dead. Welcome to
the reign of the new brand of HR. This ‘new’ agenda is what real HR people have
been doing for years and it is much too important a subject to be left to
New HR is focused on organisational effectiveness not legislative
requirements, and on organisational value not HR costs. While it is too big a
challenge for personnel, it is also too big a challenge for those who use the
title HR but think along personnel lines.
There are four differences between the pretenders and the real thing and
they are actually quite easy to spot. Firstly, pretenders make excuses.
Secondly, they never have any confidence in their actions, particularly when
seriously challenged. Thirdly, they measure things that just don’t matter. And,
finally, they talk strategy but do administration.
From now on anyone wanting to use the term HR had better be able to justify
it. If you want to join this new profession called HR get ready for a rough
ride and a real challenge.
The genuine breed of HR professionals are not worried about their
professional credentials, their results speak loudly and clearly for
By Paul Kearns, Senior partner, Personnel Works