September 16, 2020

Happy Human Resource Professional Day

A day dedicated to our profession! An opportunity to thank HR professionals around the world for the contribution they make! What are we being thanked for I hear you ask? If you work in HR you will recognise the tough decisions we have to make, the long hours we have to work, and the isolation of not really being able to make friends in the workplace. Doesn’t sound like much of advert to join the profession does it! But read on. Let me tell you what it is really like, and why people like General Sir Patrick Allen felt it to be appropriate to dedicate a day to recognise the impact that HR has on organisations.

First, a quick history lesson. During the First World War labour management became a vital component in the Country’s ability to keep going. By the Second World War welfare was increasingly important and the personnel function became a recognised profession. It wasn’t until the 1980’s though that the term Human Resources was widely recognised. We were coming to understand that people were not just payroll numbers, employed to do a job. People had ideas and creativity, and with the right motivation and balance of equity, employees could be real assets. Decades of research that had previously been ignored was now being taken seriously. In 1981 the Institute of Personnel Management (IPM) set up its headquarters in Wimbledon this marked the beginning of the profession being a career choice. IPM merged with the Institute of Training and Development in 1994 creating the IPD and in 2000 was granted chartered status (CIPD) which set us alongside the likes of Accounts.

We have come a long way since the days of welfare and labour management (or tears and tissues as some people like to put it!). HR professionals are now genuine strategic partners to the business. Afterall, without employees there would be no business, so it makes complete sense that as well as making decisions about what machines and equipment is needed, it is equally necessary to understand what knowledge, skills and behaviours are needed. People are the most complex machines of all, they are also the most fascinating and can go well and truly above and beyond what they were originally brought in to do. Treat people well, they will bring commitment, loyalty and creativity to the business. Competitive advantage is rarely gained from doing the same as other business only better or cheaper. It is more often gained from leading the field. Innovation and differentiation will help on organisation outperform its competitors but to do this it needs employees that are willing to trade their unique contribution for a reward package that meets individual needs. There needs to be fairness, equity, and integrity otherwise the relationship will be one-sided in favour of the party that has most control (usually the employer) and the opportunity to thrive is then lost.

To achieve maximum contribution from employees there are several key areas that have to be carefully managed. Here is a flavour of what falls within our remit:

Reward – getting the blend of financial and non-financial rewards right to meet both intrinsic and extrinsic needs of the individual is important for motivation and performance.

Training and Development – Identifying business skills gaps and the wants and needs of employees and bringing this together into a plan that not only meets today’s needs, but also the needs of the future.

Talent Planning – forecasting what knowledge, skills and behaviour are required and making strategic decisions about how to ensure these needs are met. Labour market and economic factors fluctuate constantly making it difficult to realise a deliberate strategy, so HR practitioners need to be focussed, knowledgeable, flexible and adaptable to make good decisions.

Employment Law – legislation underpins everything to do with employing staff, so a detailed understanding is necessary to both mitigate risk and to manage dispute as it arises. Again, fairness and equity play a part here as well as employee rights.

Employee Relations – traditionally understood to be the management of dispute involving trade unions and hours of negotiations leading to industrial action; lately the focus is more about strengthening the employment relationship and seeking out ways to improve employee involvement and participation. A positive relationship can draw out endless possibilities and make disputes a driver for change rather than something to avoid.

Change Management – change is inevitable and the psychology behind why people fear and resist change is much better understood, meaning, as change agents, HR practitioners can help to implement change more efficiently and with employees fully engaged.

People Management – you have heard that ‘people leave managers, not companies’ well, according to a lot of research carried out this is actually true. Equipping people managers with the right skills and behaviours to treat their staff well is essential. Failure to get this right will lead to disengagement, demotivation, high absence rates (possibly lengthy absences) and ultimately staff leaving.

Day-to-day issues – it still remains that there are many issues to take care of on a daily basis such as managing performance, attendance, recruitment, discipline and grievance, redundancies, discrimination, working hours, pay and family friendly rights and a long list of other things.

No two days are the same in HR. One day you could be in the Board Room planning how to ride a recession, the next you could be suspending somebody for stealing.

To build a successful career in HR and to get a flavour of the knowledge, skills and behaviour needed, the new CIPD Profession Map is very informative and a great tool to assess yourself against so you can plan your CPD.

Much effort has gone into bringing our profession up-to-date and the CIPD has refocussed HR on creating impact rather than activity. The fundamental purpose of the people profession is to champion better work and working lives. Creating roles, opportunities, organisations and working environments that help get the best out of people, delivering great organisational outcomes, in turn driving our economies, and making good, fair and inclusive work a societal outcome.” (CIPD, 2020)

There has never been a more exciting time to work in the ‘People Profession’ and to study globally recognised qualifications. But for now, we say ‘thank you’ to all of our HR colleagues, past and present, for the contribution and opportunities that you bring, and for the safe and vibrant working environment that you create.

Theresa Mayne – DPG online CIPD course facilitator and HR subject matter expert.