What does an HR Manager do? Good Question!

I subscribe to an HR newsletter.

If you really want to, you can, too. You’ll find it at www.about.com – although I wouldn’t necessarily, in my heart of hearts, recommend it to you.

But it did make me smile and cringe in equal proportion this week… all under the headline:

What does an HR Manager do?

Good question, I thought to myself. This should be good.

You see, I have a particular bee in my bonnet about HR and its position within an organisation. We so often hear the phrase ‘Our people are our greatest asset’ that it’s almost a cliché. All right, it is a cliché, but one that’s absolutely correct. No business can operate without people. Sure, a business can operate with very few people, but none?


So, if that’s the case, why is it always the accountant who’s the CEO?

I’ll tell you why. It’s not because the money is more important, it’s because people (apart from a few we know) don’t understand what HR is all about. Here’s what I mean. This is a quote from about.com:

‘…the HR Manager has responsibility for all the functions that deal with the needs and activities of the organisation’s people…’

No, no, bloody well, no!

The caption should read something like this:

‘… the HR Manager has responsibility for making sure the business is profitable (or hits other agreed targets) by ensuring there is the right number of motivated people, with the right skills at the right cost…’

The problem is the majority of HR people (and it’s by no means all) think the first quote more accurately reflects their responsibilities. Of course, if you question most HR Managers they will tacitly acknowledge that they have to add value to a business. But they must start talking the language of ‘business’.

Now for the really cringe worthy bit, which illustrates what I mean.

A while ago I was at an HR conference and went to a dinner in the evening. There were lots of people in the ‘people’ business, if you see what I mean, so there was a fair amount of sequins on display.

The main person, an HR Director of some repute stood up to deliver the keynote speech about how HR must add value to a business. Clearly, this lady was a smart cooky and high up in the CIPD. This is how her speech started (imagine a slightly breathy voice and you’ll have it about right):

‘…it’s marvellous to see you all here. I can really feel people magic in the room…’

Could you imagine an IT, Finance or Managing Director standing up and saying the same thing?

Needless to say, I groaned in pain.

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