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HR is Providing Palliative Care to the Workforce

The other day, a senior HR person commented that me pointing out poor HR practices is not helpful, and instead, we all should appreciate what HR does.

Here is the thing: NOBODY wants more HR to get better than I do because I genuinely believe that if HR gets better, the workforce gets better!

Side note: If the workforce is giving you feedback about how they feel and you make it about you instead of asking questions about what makes them feel this way, is this the right role to be in? When people tell you how they feel, it is not about you.

In 2017, I came across Lucy Adam's (ex Head of HR BBC UK) book, which she started with, "HR is Dead". There is another high-profile HR professional who openly questions everything about HR and works hard to change things. These two highly competent and respected women will tell you to throw out everything you do and know about HR.

The other day, I listened to two podcasts where academics were debating. One started, "After decades of consciousness research, we got absolutely nowhere". A Harvard Professor of Psychology began her speech with, "Every mindfulness study is mindless." They then debated the topic with data, facts, and probabilities, agreed on what works and what doesn't, and concluded about their field of studies.

It seems that highly competent people can state what doesn't work because they understand that it is how you start addressing them. You cannot solve a problem you are scared to verbalise. They also understand it is not about them and how hard they have worked. They worked for three decades, got nowhere, and are not afraid to say it.

When I ask HR, "OK, tell me what you do", all I get is information about running daily operations. They tell you I do budgeting, forecasting, payroll, employee-related matters, decorating the office and providing food, organising parties, disciplining people, hiring & firing, managing the higher management, etc. There is nothing that addresses the dire problems workplaces are facing.

This is what I call:

HR is providing palliative care while the workforce is slowly dying.

If this is what we want from HR, I am happy with it. I am OK with them running the machine and making sure that the company and employees are provided with the basics. But then we don't need CHRO, VP and Director roles, as providing the basics is the job of an HR manager. I don't need Head of HR telling me "We are decorating the office" or "buying new chairs" when I walk in for a meeting about low engagement and high turnover. If these are the areas they manage we don't need to pay them hefty salaries so they can enjoy their benefits without doing the work that is required by their workforce.

Don't get me wrong, I know that they are asked to do millions of things with no resources, power or authority. I know that they are unqualified yet provided no education or training on what good HR looks like. I know that many of you are competent and know what needs to be done, but your hands are tied. I know all that, and I agree. But this raises a significant question: Is HR important to the organisation itself? It doesn't seem like it. Important and valued departments get most of the resources they need and the authority to make decisions.

I always said HR must be the strongest department in any organisation because their competence, available resources, and authority determine the lives of employees. I have seen it first-hand. Having competent HR with authority = a happy workforce.

I am currently working with four senior HR people who wholeheartedly agree with me on the areas I point out about HR. They are not afraid to say it, which drives them to change things. They want better for their people and don't turn the conversation around and make it about them: "Oh, but you don't appreciate how hard we work."

We know, but could it be that you are working hard on things people don't want anymore? Could it be that instead of putting your effort towards organising the next employee of the month event, you should put it towards preparing a strategy that reduces your employees' work days or hours without a penny extra cost to the company but a significant benefit to employees which eventually benefit the organisation?

The workforce is going through the most significant change in the past hundred years, and we need HR more than ever. We are at a crossroads where employees' needs and wants have taken a 180-degree turn, and employers don't like it. Both sides are pushing hard: employers to keep the power and employees to have a life. This is the battle HR has to manage, not the daily forecast and another presentation.

The "speaking the business language" has changed from productivity and saving to employers wanting the workforce back in the office because of real estate investment. It went from engaged employees equals higher profit to let's create mass unemployment so we can keep the power and them obedient.

Do you HR even understand that this is what you are up against? The fight you have to manage has changed by the players, and you are still stuck on running your annual engagement surveys designed in 1958.

PS: I am not even going to talk about all the unethical and illegal stuff you guys are up to...... So, let's not be stuck at the appreciation until at least that is no longer the case.

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