Category Archives: HR Career

The Role of HR and its Significance

Jessica Lau

Jessica Lau

This month, I want to talk a little bit about the role of HR and its significance in an organization. I’m not going to go into a research type of writing with data, statistics as I know there are tons of those writings out there but I wanted to talk about the role of HR from what I’ve heard and my feelings towards these comments.

In the past couple of months, I’ve spoken with friends about HR and was I shocked about their views on HR. I mean, I wasn’t too shock as I know there’s still this perception of HR as the cost centre and the department that handles the paperwork. Some people have told me that HR is where “those people make you follow all these ridiculous rules and pointless procedures to get one simple thing done. They make up all these hoops, obstacles and roadblocks for you to jump and pass through before you can do anything.” True, HR puts in policies, procedures and what some may see as roadblocks for the organization but these are necessary. Can you imagine what may happen if there’s no policies regarding sexual harassment or procedures about dismissal? There would be many lawsuits and chaos out there and these are costly to an organization. So these roadblocks are actually ways in which HR is helping an organization protect itself from millions of dollars and negative reputation.

Other comments I’ve heard also include “HR is the people who give out freezies, offer hugs, spend time throwing little parties and making workshops.” Sure, HR may be the ones offering freezies on a hot, sunny day but there is a purpose and significance behind this tiny gesture. This tiny gesture is little sign of care and appreciation, which affects engagement and retention. The little parties thrown by HR may be part of a plan to help the employees build a sense of connection and mentality of teamwork. The workshops are ways to develop employees, make them feel motivated and engaged because not everyone is motivated by external motivator such as money, especially with the Gen Y, who are motivated and engaged by internal motivators such as the opportunity to grow and learn.[1] Overall, these initiatives help with lowering turnover and increasing retention, part of talent management and development.

So maybe the problem is not what HR is doing but the fact that what HR is doing is not being measured in quantitative data; employees are not seeing significance in what HR does. HR needs to be more of a strategic partner and shows that HR has the business mindset and knowledge to prove that their actions make an impact to the organization. There needs to be a sense of return on investment and employees need to be communicated about the impact and the significance HR plays in an organization. There may be a possibility that the employees are not seeing significance in what HR is doing due to a lack of understanding and communication between what the employees need and what the HR thinks the employees need. HR needs to have better communication with the employees to make sure it is providing the right products and services to its customers, the employees. HR can have the best product and service but if that is not what the employees need, it is worth nothing in the employees’ views.

What do you think HR can do to change or affect the management and employees’ views of HR? How can we demonstrate HR’s importance to people within our organization?


[1] Bacharach, Samuel. Gen-Y Employees: How to Motivate Them http://www.inc.com/sam-bacharach/how-to-motivate-your-gen-y-employees.html

Heathfield, Susan M. The New Roles of the Human Resources Professional. http://humanresources.about.com/od/hrbasicsfaq/a/hr_role.htm

So HR’s not very sexy? Go figure…

Gareth Cartman

Gareth Cartman

A recent survey by the CIPD in the UK pondered on the results of a survey (of its own membership) that revealed HR wasn’t very “sexy”. The majority of CIPD members hadn’t thought of a career in HR when they were young.

Instead, they were thinking of more glamorous careers, such as being pop stars or train drivers. Why, oh why, are the kids of today not clamouring for a career in Human Resources? Where’s HR’s Lady Gaga when you need her?

Of course, the serious question underlying this report is: “how can HR attract young graduates into the profession”, and it’s a question worth asking. The current entry point into the profession appears to be through service centres, and it’s doubtful whether this is the best apprenticeship for a career in strategic HR.

The main problem HR faces is exemplified by the CIPD itself. It’s a chartered institute, and the image it presents is fusty, old-fashioned, and internal, with debates about maternity pay, TUPE transfer, and the maximum number of hours’ work in a day front and centre of its website. If HR is trying to destroy its image as the department with a rulebook, then this is no way to go about it.

The CIPD “champions better work and working lives”, which is great. Someone has to do it, and it’s a very noble thing to do. But it’s not going to get graduates very excited, is it?

If anything, the CIPD is a reflection of the HR community – as talented and as earnest a bunch of people as you could ever wish to meet. However, these are internal discussions. This is the minutia of day-to-day work in HR. When you find other departments discussing the minutia of what they do, it’s aligned to business goals.

If marketers are discussing how to improve clickthrough rates of e-mails (yawn), they’re actually discussing how to grow the business. If salespeople are discussing how a CRM can improve their productivity (yawn), they’re actually discussing how to grow the business.

HR needs to do more of the same. Instead of talking about how to handle internal disputes which only serve to emphasise the rulebook image, HR needs to talk about the bigger issues in the world of work, and demonstrate how it affects them. WE know that HR can add to the bottom line. WE know that our engagement strategies and our talent management programmes add to productivity, and WE know that our data can provide invaluable insight into how the business is faring.

So if we’re going to make HR a more attractive career proposition to talented graduates, these are the things we should be talking about. You can make a difference in HR, and while you might have a rulebook, you’ll also be a business leader.

The CIPD isn’t saying this. Instead, it’s down to the outsourcers like Ceridian, ADP et al to talk about the value HR adds.

The CIPD isn’t providing the voice that HR requires. We need a new institution that isn’t afraid to tackle the big subjects, and speak its mind.

The alternative is that HR continues to retreat into a world of internal debates and minutiae, and we leave the big stuff to everyone else.