Delivering the basics delivers value

by 10 Jul 2007

I agree with your comments in your Leader article (12 June 2007), about some HR practitioners still being unable to deliver value. However, your comment about keeping the old ‘personnel’ name if we don’t change really caught my attention.

What has really changed in re-naming ourselves ‘human resources’? In my over 30 years’ experience, not much. Now it looks like we are starting to refer to it as ‘human capital management’ and have fads such as ‘talent management’ and ‘onboarding’, which I can see as no different to good management. We are told by numerous experts that the new way is to be strategic and form ‘business partnerships’. This was always the way to add value – nothing has changed.

Let’s forget the name changes and just concentrate on good practical people management. As Dave Ulrich said “our job in HR is to help our line managers execute their strategy. That’s it. It’s fairly simple”.

I was fortunate enough to join a business over 30 years ago when I started in this profession and, although they called it ‘personnel management’, the work our department did – and the value we added – was significant. The function was definitely strategic and ‘formed partnerships’ with the various operational parts of the organisation. We were involved in long-term planning on a global basis and worked hard at developing people, and building the capability of the organisation.

We had some practitioners who were not too competent, and we had some excellent ones too; very similar to today.

Yes, things are changing and events move faster. Technology can help us but what we have to do is still similar. With the exception of IT – which seems to have a good reason with the amount of technological change – no other function seems to change its name.

Let’s not confuse the issue by giving things new names pretending every initiative is new. If we want to be taken seriously let’s do the basics well and, in doing so, deliver the value we know we can.

Paul Phillips, Horizon Management Group

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