What is great HR?

We are constantly being asked the question, what does great HR look like? To be honest when put on the spot, it’s a tricky question to answer however in our minds it’s really obvious. Sometimes it’s easier to explain what it isn’t! Our profession has been hampered by having a reputation for being “fluffy”, “not at all commercial”, “the welfare department” etc…

In truth HR people don’t help themselves as we still have a few old grey suits out there from the Personnel days and we have plenty of HR bods out there that are not at all commercial and spend their time sitting on various fences.

We also have the HR police officers who can regularly be heard quoting “well legally we have to do this” whilst blindly leading businesses through a process for process sake just in case the employee raises a tribunal claim (which inevitably they do because they’ve lead them down that path).

In many organisations HR is seen as a necessary cost or the “PC” department. Anybody ever heard a senior leader say, “that’s not very HR!”? To compound this there are also big HR outsource companies who offer an insured HR product. i.e. if you follow our advised process to the letter, we will insure you against tribunal claims! This is another self-fulfilling prophecy as you end up creating tribunals by forcing your employees to drag people through processes.

This is the opposite of great HR!

So what is great HR? Well firstly, great HR professionals are commercial. They understand the business and how it operates. They understand what needles need to move to ensure that the Company is performing well. They are a credible sounding board for their fellow senior leaders / colleagues and are consulted on all manner of business related challenges and not just “HR stuff”. Their credibility and influence ensures that the Company is proactively planning to stay competitive through the effective recruitment, management and retention of its diverse population of employees. This is far from woolly HR stuff! This is the key to being a market leader or even surviving in the next decade.

A great HR professional takes time to understand their employees / clients and provides proactive, relevant and effective advice to the business rather than simply quoting the latest employment legislation. What’s right for one company or individual may not be right for yours.

Whilst managers always have the fear of an employment tribunal in the back of their mind a great HR professional makes tribunals a thing of the past through proactive involvement and addressing issues assertively and professionally ensuring that most issues are resolved internally. When you can’t resolve them internally the company’s defence is solid enough ensure that a commercially beneficial resolution can be found swiftly without the need for lengthy and expensive employment litigation.

Great HR proactively advises on the best route for an individual business or an individual in a business, interpreting and guiding a company on how to abide by the relevant employment legislation or advising on the lowest risk and swiftest resolution to address that issue in your business that is impacting on your time, your employees motivation and your customer service (i.e. your financial performance).


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