Friday 24 October 2014

Of course HR is the Most Important Function

I thought it was interesting that the 'people are our most important asset' came up at both of the conferences I was trying to follow virtually, in between other things, yesterday - at HR Tech Europe and Symposium's Talent Management and Leadership Development summit.

The question at Symposium was how do make this real in our organisations (ie how do we act in a way which demonstrates people are the most important asset).  And the point at HR Tech was that although people might be the most valuable asset, this doesn't necessarily make HR the most important department.

Why not?

Actually I think both points need the same response - HR needs to understand how to leverage this most important asset in order to create competitive advantage.  One we've got this understanding, 'it' becomes real, and HR does become the most important department.

The understanding starts with human capital.  This came up at HR Tech Europe too with Matt Buckland asking ' "Human Capital", "Resources"... what are the other words HR uses to avoid saying "People"?' and David D'Souza suggesting this includes 'colleagues, talent, FTE, staff, employees, workforce, hires, payroll.'

I completely agree that human capital sounds a dreadful term when we actually mean people. But human capital is the main outcome of what we do.  We can't avoid the term and be strategic.

Social capital too, and although the term didn't come up, that's also what Yves Morieux was talking about and Bosch were describing at HR Tech:
Bertrand Duperrin: 'The more people collaborate the more they sacrifice their own performance to the benefit of overall performance'
Marcus Fischer: 'Community Manager will be a leadership function in the future'
Ea Ryberg Due: 'Principles such as self-organisation and transparency by default might sound like start-up, but it's Bosch +250K employees.'

I haven't yet got onto social capital, of the prime importance of HR, but I've provided a summary of why human capital is so useful and how it helps make 'it' real in our organisations over on my new advice column at  After a period of posting every day I've been taking a breather from that but I will be kicking off again with more input on human capital from Monday.  Anyway, these are the current posts:


There you go.  But if you've not got time to look at all these posts, just review the accountability one as I think that's probably the most important, at least in explaining why HR is the most important function.

And actually even if you don't believe this logic, I still think it's useful to believe HR is the most important department.  I like the NLP concept of self limiting beliefs and I think our tendency to see HR as a distinctly unimportant function is definitely self limiting.  I often encourage HR to have more confidence, even a bit of a swagger, as we undertake our role.

I don't think a swagger would actually be helpful, but sometimes we do need to over-compensate and I think it'd still be better than rather apologetic way we tend to carry ourselves today.

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