Show them what HR is for

What do you suppose the average CEO thinks of HR as a profession? Be honest now. And what about the average employee? It's grim, isn't it? Steve Smethurst seeks advice

Last month, we featured Tom guru Peters. One of his choicest nuggets of wisdom was that, Every day you spend improving things is one less day you spend blowing things up. Which is fine if you have got something with a fatal flaw, but why blow up something that only needs a tweak here and there?

But where does the image of HR lie in this analogy? The CIPD takes the incremental improvement route, but perhaps something more radical is needed.

Tim Sawyer, the marketing director at Cahoot, Abbey Nationals internet bank, acknowledges there is a problem. There is definitely the danger that the profession is seen as dealing just with pay rises and as a shoulder to cry on. Its my guess the ordinary man on the street would find HR pretty fuddy-duddy despite the fact the profession has come a long way from the days of the personnel department. And though most companies do now realise the value of training, development and motivation, theres an awful lot still to do.

Andrew Marsden, the marketing director at Britvic, agrees. There is the risk that HR is viewed as the department that knocks out the company magazine or its the odd-bods in training and development theres a great misunderstanding.

Marsden argues that HR has three audiences employees, senior management and business in general. He argues that theres most chance of a sensible debate with senior management as youre managing the human capital of the business. The trick is not to give a full, detailed, illustration of the problems dont go in saying, Here are the latest European laws we need to be aware of. Senior management wants an overview of the problems and then an action plan which gives proactive management of them.

Marsden is certainly forthright in his opinions, You have to get across your value to the business what the hell is HR there for? Its to put the right people in the right jobs, get the training right and keep the cost of employees in proportion to the business plan. I want HR to tell me what the business needs to do. There are too many apologists for the discipline of HR, if you dont respect your own profession, youre useless to the business.

He continues, Theres an itinerant workforce and a general expectation of management movement, remote working and career management. Its the age of the knowledge worker how do you manage people in an age like this and hold on to workers? But what do we hear about dress down Fridays.

Aniko Czinege, head of commercial development at the branding agency, Banner McBride, says, HR needs to know what all its customers want and then work out how it can best deliver it. It also has to get the message across at all its customer touch points.

Cahoots Sawyer argues that there is no easy way to raise HRs profile or it would have it done by now. HR must persevere and be proactive. Can the CIPD do anything? 'I dont know too much about it but that speaks volumes to me, it suggests its an invisible body.