Do not fret – HR is the vibrant profession

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Non-stop debates about the purpose and value of HR can infuriate people. But, argues Dean Royles, this actually indicates how vibrant the profession is.

It was one of those rare, perfect Saturday mornings. The sun was shining, the family were away and I had some quality me time. Bliss! I intended to catch up on some work then head for the Peak District while it was still quiet.

But (you knew there would be a ‘but’, didn’t you?) I got distracted by another of those endless articles on whether HR adds value given it is so 'fad-driven'. I didn’t mind the article so much, but the online comments... 

These well-meaning, hard-working people bemoaned the constant debate about HR; they wanted to stick to basics, longed for stability and questioned the value of new models about employee engagement. They seemed to just want to get on with their jobs without the constant distraction of debate.

Their reaction to these articles, although understandable, is like wearing socks and sandals: wrong. We shouldn’t be decrying the debate in our profession or the constant stream of new ideas about adding value and improving the way we do things. We should be proud of it. The sign of a vibrant profession is the presence (not the absence) of debate and challenge about its value; it’s the lifeblood of our work.

Imagine the scene in a cancer research laboratory when someone highlights an article about a promising new treatment. You are unlikely to hear: ‘Oh, here we go again; just when we were getting somewhere, someone has to upset things’. We’d be appalled at such an attitude, and rightly so. That’s how it should be with HR.

When new ideas emerge we should welcome them, and embrace the fact that people are interested. We should appreciate the help, engage with the debate, cogitate on the ideas, and use the opportunity to engender excitement and passion, knowing that with each discussion our profession gets stronger.

Instead of longing for stability and a status quo we should be constantly looking for disruptive, innovative ideas. Look at marketing and how they have engaged with social media and technology. It transformed the way they work and the way they are seen.

Let’s use the lively academic and popular debate about HR and OD to maximise our contribution and bask in the legitimacy it gives us. Now, I’m off to find a radical article on ‘OD and the role of the finance director’ and post it on Twitter. After I’ve conquered Kinder Scout that is...

Dean Royles is director of HR and OD at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust. It is the largest NHS Trust in the country, employing around 15,000 staff 

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