The latest HR blog carnival is over on Jon Ingham’s site. (I wouldn’t let Jon anywhere near my office until he promised to stop doing his impression of The Fonz - see the avatar in the bottom right corner of his blog.)
Before my first “office job,” when I thought about the business world, I thought… Marketing – sexy. International finance – sexy. Investment banking – really sexy. Human resources – huh? The profession of HR never crossed my mind, and I’m not sure if I would venture to call it sexy even today.
Well, yes, maybe. Some jobs like marketing, PR and advertising may be intrinsically sexy because they are perceived to offer exciting and glamorous work. Others, like investment banking, are only sexy because they pay lots of money. Some very highly paid City jobs, especially those involving derivatives and other complex financial instruments, are filled by geeky maths graduates who spend most of their time number crunching. Take away the huge salaries and these jobs are very unsexy.
I also wonder why people in Finance don’t worry about their profession being more sexy. Perhaps for the same reason that you never hear them say things like “Finance must be aligned to the business strategy”. They just take it as read and take their seats at the top tables as a matter of right.
People who worry too much about being sexy usually aren’t. As I have said before, this kind of introspection is what stops HR people being powerful. No other business function beats itself up in quite the same way.
I much prefer Dan McCarthy’s approach:
For about the last 20 years, I’ve heard a lot of whining from training and HR folks about wanting to “have a seat at the table”. We love to flog ourselves about why we stink , and to criticize our executives about having their heads up their behinds for not recognizing how important we could be.
I know, I used to do the same thing. And I also spent time “marketing” my training team, conducting phony ROI studies, and taking on any scrap assignment thrown my way as a way to prove our worth and “earn” a seat at the all important table.
Well, I’ve learned over the years that if you want a seat at the table, you need to assume it’s yours, just barge in, and take it. Grab a cookie, have a seat, pour a glass of water, and contribute to the success of the business. Executives aren’t stupid people – if you have something substantial to offer, they listen.
That’s what Finance and Marketing Directors have been doing for years – and I bet most of them never stop to think about whether or not they are sexy.
That said, Jessica makes some good suggestions, such as not using employment law to justify your existence, becoming a shameless self promoter and, most importantly in my view, not colluding when people have a go at HR. She also criticises SHRM which, if the comments of American HR bloggers are anything to go by, is even less dynamic and forward looking than our equivalent, the CIPD.
But while I agree with these points, I feel that Jessica has the argument arse about face. HR does not need to become more sexy to gain more power and influence. It needs to gain more power and influence if it is to become more sexy.
In the end HR will only win power in organisations if those currently in the profession are prepared to be more bullish about what they do. HR could be more sexy but to become so, it must stop apologising for its existence and fight its corner.