Does this sound familiar to you?

  • Me: ‘Hi I am Stephanie, I work in HR’
  • New colleague: ‘Is that…like erm… recruitment and payroll?
  • Me: (thinking ‘NO!!! It is workforce planning, organisation design and development, transformation, change management, employee engagement, retention and attrition management’) ……actual answer ‘Yes
  • New colleague: Smiles politely and finds a new subject to talk about……or complains about a recent interaction with HR

It is widely accepted that people are an organisations most valuable asset, and as a result there is a dedicated function in place responsible for ensuring effective management of those assets – HR! So then why does this dialogue occur so frequently?

I recently came across a blog by Steve Browne expressing that ‘the thing that is wrong with HR is that it has become too apologetic and lost its passion’……this got me thinking. Can we, as HR professionals, really blame other people for not understanding what HR is, and the value it brings, if we are not articulating or promoting it?

Let’s look at some examples of when the work of HR is really visible in organisations (other than via recruitment and payroll!):

  • Change management: Organisations face constant change, none more challenging and severe than those faced in the most recent economic climate. HR is generally responsible for managing change either directly or by equipping managers to manage, but do we try hard enough to measure the effectiveness or value added? Due to the degree of change impacting organisations of late, it is likely to have been a feature at many board tables, however it is unlikely that HR would ever be ‘famous’ or promote themselves within the organisation for its achievements in effectively managing change.
  • Talent management: One publicly visible example is the recent cabinet re-shuffle. This would have required an analysis of key skills including leadership qualities for which HR are likely to have played a key role in supporting analysis and decisions. However it is has also been highly publicised and is suspected by some as being a re-branding exercise and therefore PR will have been involved….But did HR and PR actually work together? Some companies such as Shell and LV insurance have identified the potential success of combining HR and PR functions demonstrated through the combined reporting lines.

There appear to be two challenges; HR Professionals as individuals articulating the value that HR brings, and for HR to work jointly with PR to ensure effective communication and promotion of the employee value proposition and shaping the brand of the organisation internally and externally.

And so, as we might not be able to influence the structure of the HR and PR functions, I propose a challenge to individual HR professionals…….. If we cannot easily articulate what we do, what we are passionate about and what we are most proud of: how can we expect colleagues outside of HR to appreciate and accept our achievements?!  Take 20 mins out of your day today and consider your answer to this, and next time you meet a new person try using it as your introduction!

I would like to end by stating: My name is Stephanie, my job is to ensure that employees have opportunities to achieve their full potential, and that employees’ success can be translated into business success.