HR can’t afford to be shrinking violets

Recently I read an article by Anthony Hilton, Evening Standard, where he gave his opinion that it is high time that more managers realised that business success is actually about people, I began to celebrate, it was music to my ears. Having spent all my career in HR focused on getting managers to take that view, rather than as Hilton says, focused on numbers with accountants in the driving seat. I was relieved to see a business journalist actually understanding that fact.

However the rest of the article hadn’t always been such a comfortable read. He accused HR Departments as seeing themselves as reactive rather than proactive, and I would agree that is true enough. But in many cases that isn’t through the lack of trying, it’s more about the message falling on deaf ears, of banging on the wrong doors or just possibly approaching things in the wrong way. How many HR professionals and departments actually evaluate when things don’t go their way and then consider what they could learn from that situation and think about what they could do differently next time?

I often hear HR professionals ask the question “Why didn’t that manager just ask us? We could see what needed to be done”? Or “We could have told you that months ago that that is what needed to happen?” Hilton discusses that in general HR folk rarely venture out of their domain and rarely venture into boardroom chat.

Ever thought why. Sometimes it is true there is a lack of skills from those in HR, after all much of the activities are stereo-typed into sorting problems out and the responsibility of integrity doesn’t always sit well with shouting from the roof tops. We can’t afford to be the shrinking violets of the work force and we have to look at how the other functions do it, especially if we want to be seen as pro-active rather than re-active and there are lots of HR Departments and Professionals who I know want that. So the other departments, they create alliances, they get to know what is going on in the wider business and most of all they aren’t afraid to give it a go and cope with the knock backs.

Whilst it is true that we sometimes come across HR Departments that are being put under undue pressure or scrutiny to ensure compliance with legislation or handle the fallout; we come across more who aren’t taking the time to truly consider whether they have the skills to approach things differently. Even more importantly if they don’t consider how they or we as HR professionals, are going to get them and if we don’t then is always going to be the block to us entering into those boardroom chats.

This rhetoric is nothing new I hear you say and indeed the research around the HR profession and our anecdotal research has been indicating exactly this over the past years in terms of what HR Professionals need to get better at. This is exactly what has led us at enable-hr to decide to support HR Professionals. We have spent a number of years reviewing the research and our own anecdotal evidence and as a result developed a diagnostic tool to help guide your own development as a HR professional, to tackle some of the challenges Hilton so succinctly put in his article. After all if we are not leading by example around our own development then what message are we giving the managers and individuals we are working with.

You can find out more about the enable-hr tool at

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