· 2 min read · Features

Isn't it time to move on from the debate about whether HR is strategic enough?


If HR wants to be taken seriously at the top table, it needs to stop talking about being strategic and get on with it.

At a time of economic difficulty, when companies are either cutting staff, freezing pay or trying to get more out of staff for less, HR has a vital role to play.

I've seen this at some of the previous companies where I have worked. The past five years have not been kind to the media: large numbers of journalists have lost their jobs, even more have had their pay frozen (or cut), and journalists are expected to work longer hours. I've personally been affected, as I've had to make staff redundant and manage larger workloads with younger talent.

The companies that had effective HR functions - those that actually helped middle managers like myself implement talent management strategies rather than merely provide admin support - were the ones that provided inspiration, innovation and leadership.

HR's battle for 'relevance' is in no way unique. Many business functions are trying to find ways to show leaders they add value rather than cost.

For the past seven years, I have extensively covered other parts of business, most notably finance and accounting. There are some parallels to be drawn between the world of finance and HR.

Both functions are attempting to become more relevant. Both functions have a direct impact on all other parts of business. And both are involved in major business decisions in M&A, recruitment and remuneration, to name a few.

A difference between the two is that finance isn't fighting an internal debate about whether it should or should not be more strategic. It's just getting on with it.

Finance professionals often serve as business partners to other functions. For example, at BSkyB finance talent is seconded to other parts of the company to gain a better understanding of how departments operate. This is how they develop strong business and industry sector acumen.

The advantage HR has over other functions, as recently pointed out by my predecessor Siân Harrington, is that it has its finger on the pulse of every company's greatest asset - people.

A good example of this is the role HR must play to help workforces adapt to an ever-growing multicultural society in our cover story on diversity and inclusion.

And there is plenty of brilliant talent in this space. Having recently hosted the HR Excellence Awards and a roundtable on vocational training, I have been impressed by individuals and examples of innovation. I look forward to ensuring Siân's great work on HR magazine is continued into the future, working with HR magazine's talented team and meeting bright individuals from this industry.