HR Needs to Paint a New Picture of Itself

Hasn’t HR suffered enough? At a time when major organizational initiatives in performance management and talent management should be giving human resources managers a big boost in respect and organizational influence, most executives continue to view HR as utterly nonstrategic and the last place they want to end up. Fast Company’s cover story “Why We Hate HR” was bad enough, but today comes another indignity.

At Christie’s auction house in New York a painting by Lucien Freud will go up for auction. It is of a rather Rubenesque nude woman asleep on a couch. It is expected to fetch the highest price ever for any living artist. Its title: “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping.” That is not the image the HR function needs!

So what’s the solution? How can HR practitioners elevate the strategic importance of the function and attract the best talent to this incredibly important field? HR isn’t about paperwork and summer outings. It’s about the acquisition, development, and measurement of talent. It’s a deeply strategic field with the power to make tangible and lasting effects on the organization.

In the hands of the right people, HR would not be a career dead-end; it could be the new road to the top. It’s a sad state of affairs that crunching data and managing outsourcers are considered better career tracks for aspiring leaders than creating and executing people strategies — but that appears to be the case.

Even though I’m not in the field, I’m fed up for my HR brethren. HR is a critical player in executing a company’s larger talent management strategies – something lost, it seems, on too many companies. After all, what moves the organization? Its people. Recruiting the best and the brightest talent, implementing strategies to get the most out of them, guiding the development of top performers, addressing weak links, measuring the value people deliver to the organization. What could possibly be more important?

Apparently everything else — at least if you judge by the career tracks and opinions of most executives. So where does HR stand in your organization? Is it a disrespected function or can it be rehabilitated? Is it even possible to move HR out of the wings and onto center stage? If so, how?