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Exclusive: HR is under the cosh and must be bolder, says Met Police HR boss

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Metropolitan Police HR director Martin Tiplady opened this year's HR magazine People Strategy Forum with a rousing challenge: "We need to take a long, hard look at what we do, and when we do it," he told delegates.

According to Tiplady, HR departments will be "priced out of their business" if they do not make bold decisions soon to find cheaper and more effective ways to affect their organisations. "HR is under the cosh," he said. "We are skilled at being transactional, but are we good at adding value? Businesses can operate without us. HR needs to get away from talking jargonistic nonsense and be seen to have speed and relevancy. We need to be swift, and look swift, to be pragmatists and professionals."

Tiplady announced he is just about to go live with an HR programme that will save the Metropolitan Police £15 million per year, and do it with 330 fewer HR staff. "Ratios of HR professionals to staff in the public sector range from 1:40-1:130," he observed. "Why is there this amount of variation? HR needs to work harder to hit world-class ratios closer to 1:100 - this is what I am aiming for."

He said: "HR's future is about the transformation we can add, nothing else. If we are to survive, we need to get a whole deal wiser about our businesses." Tiplady says HR professionals "need an approach to employee engagement, bar none". He also said organisational design should be the most important task of HR professionals today.

"Financial directors, marketing directors, they all produce five-year plans. What does HR do? Put an ad in a paper for a job, once the vacancy appears. We need to know our recruitment needs in advance, before vacancies appear. Doing well is no longer good enough. We've become complacent at thinking processes are solutions to problems. We are seen as peripheral and ‘not getting it'. Real insight isn't this. Our future is about transforming, nothing else."

Diversity was one of the industry's biggest concerns, he added. "We must forget it is a ‘policy' and regard it as an ‘attitude' within our business."

HR magazine will be sending more news and opinion from this two-day conference as it happens.