The last few months have seen the re-emergence of rumblings sounding the death knell for HR. These naysayers and doom-mongers, fed by the economic downturn, view the HR function as an expensive and unnecessary luxury. For the purposes of this article let us imagine that these apocalyptic style predictions have some truth in them (which of course they don’t). Who would deliver HR’s retirement speech and more importantly, what could be said about the HR profession’s achievements?
Over my years in HR I have seen many individuals come and go. Some I miss dearly, and some not so much. Many taught me the skills I use every day in my career. Others showed me the worst type of behaviours, which were lessons in themselves. One stands out as having a significant impact on my life.
Some years ago I attended a HR manager’s leaving presentation. I can’t remember anything the employee’s manager said, how much I contributed to the collection or what the gifts were. I can only remember one man, a trade union official and the traditional adversary of HR, describing our colleague. “He has always been fair” he said in an emotional voice. Fair and consistent. I think of that moment often, and aspire to be as well respected as my former colleague.
He was a quiet man. I never saw him raise his voice or become frustrated. His approach was calm and considered. I know exactly what the Union guy meant when he said fair. Not fair as in he tried to please everybody, that’s impossible in HR. Fair as in he considered all the information and evidence available and made a decision on the balance. He thought problems through. It’s not as if he never had to handle difficult cases and make tough decisions. He’d worked in HR all his life, dealing with everything from recruitment to disciplinary and dismissal. I know I can’t do him justice here. But I don’t need to. A union man already summed it up perfectly. And if I could reach the end of a successful HR career (hopefully many years from now) and hear those words – fair and consistent – I would know my efforts had been worthwhile.
Without HR, the burden of people management and development would fall much more heavily on the manager’s shoulders. Bring it on I hear the anti-HR brigade cry…but wait a minute…what about fairness? And no way to ensure consistency? The system falls at the first hurdle. You can’t get rid of us that easily.
We in HR are going to be around for a long time yet.
Photo credit: Military Families Learning Network