Tuesday, 3 February 2015

More paradox - the business of business is HR

I also talked about this idea about HR not being a support function, or at least not just a support function, at the HRPA conference a few weeks ago.

Like any conference, any individual's experience will depend upon the sessions they have attended, but my impression based upon the keynotes, and the syndicates I selected, was that this was a particularly 'human' (HCM / Creating Value / Artful HR etc) HR conference - not on the scale of Art of HR of course, but still at the opposite end of the spectrum to HR Technology in Las Vegas.

I thought this focus was a bit spoilt, however, by the HRPA's President referring to the conference theme, 'the business of HR' by suggesting the business of HR is optimising the business itself.  To me, that's only part, and not the most important part, of the story.

So when I was offered the opportunity to step in to present an additional session to the one that I had planned, replacing Kris Dunn, who had ben delayed, I quickly took the opportunity.  Kris had been going to talk about the 9 faces of HR and I wasn't sure what these were about, but building on the value triangle I came up with these 3 faces:

  • Personnel Manager - focusing on doing stuff
  • HR Manager - focusing on the business of HR being the business (which to me is about being a support function)
  • People Strategist - focusing on changing the business of the business to be HR, or at least people (i.e. putting people first.)

There were a couple of people in the audience who could provide examples of my third face so I think the breakdown resonated for people.

Most of the session focused on the paradox of the last two faces - supporting the business and the business’ customers and shareholders (the business of HR is business) and leading the business too, at the same time (ensuring the business of business is HR)

As I quite often do I tried to inject some other topical content into the session which included Joe Gertstandt's thoughts on the importance of psychology, sociology and anthropology (something I've mentioned before as well.)  It's not that we don't need skills in finance, analytics but we need to be able to do the more artful stuff as well.

It's just one more HR paradox to add to the longer list which Dave Ulrich has been suggesting today.

And it was interesting to note that this was actually the basis of a short debate with Kris on his HR Capitalist blog a few years back and I talked about this in the session too (since I think quite a few people were there to see Kris).

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