Embrace the role of strategic partner

first_imgHR’s role was on the agenda once again at Harrogate. But is it time for theprofession to accept an important supporting role rather than the lead?As someone who bears witness to the enduring popularity of people managementsubjects in higher education, it is of constant mystification that theprofession is viewed with such low esteem. Is it the preoccupation with attaching value to careers in monetary termsrather than the intrinsic value? Has job satisfaction been sacrificed at thealtar of high rewards and large bonuses? It appears to be a difficult ethicaldilemma. Constant bickering over the terminology of a job title does little toenhance the perception of HR. Accountants and marketers do not appear to havethe same crisis of identity. The generic titles of finance manager andmarketing manager are understood outside the professions and have stood thetest of time. The people management profession appears to lack the same clarity ofpurpose, however. The continuous infighting between the various disciplinesdoes not help dispel the image of a confused profession. It is important tonote that the professional institute chose to keep personnel in its name. In addition, many employees do not relish being regarded in the same way asphysical assets – they have feelings and an intellect. Could sector commentators be partly to blame for the confusion? The currentmovers and shakers in the profession have been bombarded with the “I wantto be strategic” mantra – they have latched on to HR management rhetoricof assets versus liabilities and have been engaged by spiritual intelligenceand knowledge management exponents. While these elements serve a purpose at a particular time and place, none inisolation can contribute to the development of a profession which has long beensearching for a respectable, more durable role in an ever changing businessclimate. If you subscribe to the belief that people management will always be asecond-order strategy in many organisations, then we may begin to find a morecomfortable role to embrace. A consultant anaesthetist once said to me, “We follow what the surgeonsdo”, and this appears to be the role anaesthetists have accepted. Althoughexperts in their field, they have come to realise the one main obstacle in therace to be top dog – they are not qualified as surgeons, so they do not attemptto take on the role. Instead they carry out their function with meticulous precision and clarityof purpose, developing techniques and the use of drugs with the same precisionthat the surgeon uses the scalpel. Surgeons trust and rely on theiranaesthetists. Mutual respect and admiration has forged a lasting relationshipbetween the disciplines and ensured the development of the role of bothpractitioners. There could be a lesson here for HR professionals. Why continue to competeagainst accountants and marketers for the top role? Instead we should lookwithin ourselves, assess our strengths and weaknesses and forge a role as astrategic partner. We should encourage staff to play to their strengths anddevelop their expertise in their areas of natural competence, not everyoneelse’s. HR shouldn’t follow the fad of the day. It may have to rethink its strategyand work on a partnership agreement with flexible service level targets andgoals. The role of partner is just as important as top dog. Audrey Bland is a senior lecturer in HRM at Middlesex University BusinessSchool Embrace the role of strategic partnerOn 6 Nov 2001 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Articlelast_img read more