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CIPD Conference and Exhibition: HR job titles reflect the profession's insecurity

The HR sector's insecurity over its own importance is reflected in the language it uses, according to the HR director at the second largest company in the world by revenue.

Speaking at a session during the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development Conference in Manchester, Hugh Mitchell, chief HR and corporate officer at Royal Dutch Shell suggested terminology and job titles can reflect the sector’s hesitation to believe in the value of its own work.

"In some ways we’ve accepted we should be at the bottom of the food chain," Mitchell said. "Some of the books and some of the consultants’ language has not helped us.

"If you’re sitting there and you say to the finance person ‘why are you here?’ they’ll just say ‘because I’m the finance person’."

Speaking to HR Magazine after the session, Mitchell said: "You can see it in job titles like ‘HR consultant’. If I want a consultant I’ll buy one.

"I’ve always been very aggressive about dismissing that stuff [and] things are changing. At the end of the day as part of the leadership team you should have your shoulder to the wheel as well as everybody else. We’re all in the scrum, we’re all playing a role."

Mitchell was speaking at a HR director general at the Department for Work and Pensions.

Mitchell is the first HR director to sit on Shell’s Executive Committee.