The Changing Nature of the HR Profession

by Michael Haberman on February 4, 2014 · 1 comment


 

Trying to keep cool and positive about a number of things.

Trying to keep cool and positive about a number of things.

I am depressed. In a slip and fall on an icy road I destroyed my left knee. As a result I am going to have to have major surgery to repair the damage. So went looking for something positive and I found this blog post. I wrote this post about a year ago. After reading it I thought it was still relevant. New people to the profession are bringing different approaches and different technologies that are different than in the past but goals and ideals remain the same.

The profession of HR is much different than when I first started. Although I am not quite an antique it sounds like it when I say that I started when it was still called the “personnel department.” Since then there has been a world of change albeit that change sometimes seems to move at glacial speed. It is however, a much harder job than it was 30 years ago.

Identity crisis

I think HR suffers from an identity crisis, both internally and externally. The external crisis is a long held view by management and employees that HR is a necessary evil that is to be avoided at all costs. For many HR is the “police department” that can’t keep a secret. There is no lack of articles telling us how CEOs hate HR. Fortunately that is turning around in many organizations as HR continues to evolve.

The external identity crisis will not go away however until the internal identity crisis is solved. We as a group don’t know what to call ourselves. As a profession we call ourselves HR, but many people object and say people should not be viewed as “resources.” We don’t hire people anymore we “acquire talent.” Recruiters are now “talent acquisition specialists.”  HR people don’t do employee relations they “interact to engage employees.” This internal division is slowly going away and that is a good thing.

HR is evolving

Today’s HR is a complex array of challenges requiring a complex array of skills. Today a true HR professional must be competent in the following areas:

  • Knowing how their business operates well beyond the marketing brochure explanation;
  • Understand that the global market place impacts every company and organization, even if there is only one employee;
  • Be totally adept at the use of social media and understand the ramifications of its use and misuse;
  • Understand and be able to apply leadership principles:
  • Be adept in applying team concepts;
  • Be able to collect, analyze, and use enormous amounts of data on things such as trends, demographics, world events, politics and social trends
  • Understand the impact now and in the future of technology on ability to interact with the many users of the technology.

If these are not enough the HR professional must be able ensure compliance with the myriad of laws on both a Federal and state level that guide day-to-day interactions with employees. Lawyers can tell you the law, but HR has to apply it. The HR professional must walk the fine line of being a company manager and being a “champion of the people.”

The Good news

As difficult as this makes HR sound the good news is that the profession is moving in this direction. Educational efforts, both from a university standpoint and a professional standpoint, are making an impact. People are coming into jobs today much more capable and prepared than many of us were in the past. The emphasis on ongoing education keeps people current. People actually want to be an HR professional as opposed to “falling into the profession.”

All of that means the HR as a profession has a bright future.


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Teena Thimothy February 5, 2014 at 8:07 am

Though I’m from an era in which we call it People Manager or Talent Manager, I am in agreement with your view of how HR as a function may be facing an Identity crisis. Today the organizations demand HR to don multiple hats but the real question is, what is the efficiency of the person to don that hat?

HR today is completely buried in transactional activities, when a people manager drowns in transactional activities it inhibits them from actually leveraging technology, skills and effort for the betterment of the human resource they ideally need to focus on.

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