'The bar has been set too low for human resources'

By David Donaldson

February 4, 2016

Many see human resources as a secondary business concern. But public sector leaders “need to get beyond the thinking that sees HR merely as the repository of soft skills in an organisation”, argues Lyn Goodear, chief executive officer of the Australian Human Resources Institute.

In an industry dominated by highly skilled, highly employable professionals, effective management of staff is clearly important.

Unlike other professional occupations, such as accountants and lawyers, HR professional in the public sector have no accreditation requirements. This can limit the attraction of HR as a career and, more importantly, reinforces a perception that the engagement of experienced and competent HR professionals does not rate as a business objective, argues the Public Sector Commission in a blog post.

“For their part, chief executives and agency heads need to stop bringing people in from outside HR in the desperate pursuit for good HR. Rather they need to find HR business partners who bring, through their endeavour, the requisite skill-set of capabilities and behaviours,” says Goodear.

Research by McKinsey and the Conference Board has found that although CEOs around the world see human capital as a top challenge, they rank HR as only the eighth or ninth most important function in a company. Goodear cites a Harvard Business Review article arguing for a prioritisation of human capital that has been lacking until now: “Any CEO who is sold on the idea that people are the ultimate source of sustainable competitive differentiation must take the rejuvenation and elevation of the HR function very seriously,” the authors argue.

An AHRI survey of public sector agency heads and  indicates similar attitudes to the HR profession here.

“Chief executives and agency heads have high expectations of what HR could be doing for their business, and HR practitioners agree with those expectations,” argues Goodear. “But HR worldwide does not live up to the promise entailed in those expectations.”

She believes the reason for this failure to live up to expectations is that “the bar has been set too low for HR”, and that both agency leaders and HR practitioners themselves need to remedy this problem:

“If an organisation requires a workforce plan, a talent strategy or a better performance framework, it needs HR people who can do hard things. If the work structure is flawed, productivity is down or the culture is toxic, soft skills alone won’t remedy the malaise.

“High-level HR expertise is required, and it’s an expertise that must be comfortable working with uncertainty, ambiguity, complexity and often paradox. The public service knows about paradox: it hears only too often the demand to do more and to do it with less.

“HR business partners need to know what is behind that demand and, more critically, they need to be able to do what’s required to play a central role in making it happen.

“For their part, chief executives and agency heads need to stop bringing people in from outside HR in the desperate pursuit for good HR. Rather they need to find HR business partners who bring, through their endeavour, the requisite skill-set of capabilities and behaviours.

“AHRI’s response to that challenge in 2015 has been to set the bar high and to invite HR practitioners to straddle it. That means they must demonstrate, through taking on a robust certification program, not just what they know but what they can actually do.

“That done, AHRI’s National Certification Council will assess their readiness for certification and award to successful candidates the post-nominal CAHRI-CP, with CP signifying ‘certified practitioner’.”

About the author
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
The Mandarin Premium

Insights & analysis that matter to you

Subscribe for only $5 a week

 

Get Premium Today