Tampons and tissues

As a Fellow of the CIPD I’m an avid reader of the in-house magazine, People Management. Mostly because I’m diligent, but often because I can’t sleep.

It drives me nuts to read about what ‘HR people’ are up to in organisations. Richard Lambert wrote a blog a while ago based around a question: if people are our most important resource, why are CEOs nearly all accountants?

For me, it’s because ‘HR people’ don’t understand enough about business and what it takes for a business to be around for the long term… and let’s face it, the first responsibility of any business is to make profit. Without it, it won’t be about for very long to look after customers or staff.

The perfect illustration of this is one of my previous employers in which the HR team was known as T & T… where you went if you needed a tampon or a tissue after a good cry.

Now, if the HR team is known mostly for handing out tampons and tissues, it’s unlikely that anyone in that team would make it to the top of the business, or even be consulted on key business issues.

Of course, this is a bit of ridiculous example, but it was the same organisaton that created an assessment centre for managers which highlighted the ones that were good and those that weren’t so good. All of them got development plans.

The good ones implemented those plans and got better, the poor managers paid lip service to them and carried on as usual, without improvement.

In a business focused world, what should have happened to those poor managers who refused to take on board improvements that would have led to a more profitable business?

They should have been fired… sorry, managed out of the business, after all the correct procedures were followed. They weren’t, of course, because HR said it would be too difficult in the face of current legislation.

Now, I’m all for equality and diversity – a well integrated workforce where promotion is based on ability alone generates more profits than a biased business, but this is a perfect example of HR being a blocker in a business – a cost.

A true HR Business Partner is a profit centre in its own right. It will work with a business to understand what it has to achieve and then work within legislation to make it happen. That might be the development of existing staff so they have the ability to deliver what the business needs.

It may also be the forced attrition of staff that is not pulling its weight, to be replaced through the recruitment process, with people who will enhance the business. And, let’s face it, you’re only being fair to the people who can’t cut the mustard, because they won’t be fulfilled in their role if they know they’re no good at it.

All this can be achieved by HR as long as you have the right manager or outsourcer on board.

1 comment for “Tampons and tissues

  1. No Guru
    24 July, 2009 at 16:12

    T&T! Surely not a certain HR team we both worked with Renee?

    On a serious note, I think your blog is so accurate. I'm noticing the same theme in my clients, regardless of whether they are in the public or private sector. The phrase "it's impossible to get rid of people" crops up, again and again, usually followed by a diatribe about the role of HR in not helping to "manage out the business". Even allowing for distortions or generalisations; if this is the image HR are presenting, consistently, then we are in serious trouble.
    I feel organisations need to show a bit more courage without necessarily infringing the rights of the individual and that HR need to come off the fence to do as you suggest above.
    We perhaps should explore the role of language as well. I question the term "manage out of the business"… this sounds like a long process (and people know it) and I wonder if more direct and honest language would help employers and employees more.

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