IMAGE OF HR
This morning I met two line managers at the airport. They belonged to two different companies: one from a PSU and the second from a private sector company. They were staring at me. They seemed to be familiar faces. One of them finally said, “I have seen you some where?”
I introduced my self, ‘‘I am T V Rao”
One of them said, “Oh Sir, I know you. I am from company ….. You have done the some work for us a few years ago. You know our company well.”
I said, “thank you. I do not know really much about what is happening. We had a system to develop, we developed it but your company did not implement it the way we suggested. They never came back to us to implement it properly”
He promptly said, “No sir. They do not implement any thing. They only appoint consultants. You know we have a new HR manager. He joined a few months ago and we had a presentation from a Multinational Consultants yesterday. I am with this company for the last eleven years. I have seen eight to nine consultants. All in HR. they give beautiful reports collect their fee and go away. The company is not really interested. They get consultants to say what they want and they pick up what they want from the consultants report and do not implement any thing else. I am seeing the HR people for the last eleven years. They are all like that. Some of them disappear along with the consultants. I had a fight with the HR Manager yesterday. We were called in for revamping some of the HR systems. Two young ladies from this new MNC consulting firm have started explaining. It all sounded familiar. I told them that they are the fifth or sixth consultants to come here in the last five years. Nothing happens here and please leave us do our work. I do not want to waste three hours of my time. And I walked away”
I said, “I am sorry to hear that. I am aware that your company is hiring these consultants as they approached me and I said that the area where they need help is not my area. In addition they wanted us to respond to a tender. You know that we do not respond to tenders as we don’t believe that Doctors should be called on tenders. Management consultants are like doctors and they should be used when you need and this tendering business only increases your expense as it increases work and costs.”
“Yes sir, I know this. But this is a gimmick. Our HR people want themselves to be seen as credible people in the eyes of public. All that they do is opposite of what they profess. They do real damage to the company. Our HR manager, the new fellow came after I walked out of the meeting and shouted at me in my room for walking out of the meeting. You know our company, sir. They only appoint consultants to pass time or to get support for what they want. We are all slogging and they do little to appreciate what we do and how much hard we work.”
The conversation continued with more and more accusations of HR. After some time I turned to the second manager and asked him about the company where he is working. He mentioned a name and I immediately recognized the HR Chief of the company. Then I mentioned bout how the HR Chief and their MD approached us for some HR systems work a few years ago. Then I enquired how the company is doing.
He replied, “I am in Marketing. We are doing well sir. We have taken some new projects and tripled our turnover in the last two years. We are having great time”
I then asked him about the HR Chief. He replied, “He trying to do something or the other. No one knows what he does but he does something to keep himself and all of us busy and feel that he is doing something. I do not think it is productive any way. They waste our time. In loogong ko tolerate karma hi padtha hai. We have no other way than to tolerate them as we depend on them for a few other things”
Latter in the day, I mentioned this experience of mine to Dr Pareek whom I met at Jaipur. He replied, “Venkatesh I jut quoted a research study which indicated that 37% of the managers interviewed felt that the HR managers have a negative influence on the company. The companies will do better without them. Some times I wonder what these managers are doing and what kind of HR managers we have created. They seem to focus more on things that give them power than those that establish processes, and help and groom people. I don’t know when we will be able to change this situation”
In recent times I kept talking about the wonderful opportunity HR managers have as Talent has become business and HR is needed more than ever before. I consider the modern era as an era of talent and it is HR people who can make things happen.. Fifteen years ago when IT came to the forefront HR people missed the bus. Instead of working on knowledge management they worked on recruitment management. Line managers took leadership and worked on knowledge management and even on leadership development. See who heads HR in Infosys including its Leadership Institute. Not those who were groomed as HR managers. Is this an indication of the success of a HR driven CEOs or the top management or is this a failure of the HR profession?
Now HR is going to lose again the opportunity to others. Most HR managers do not realize what an opportunity they have in current times. They also seem to be blind to the negative impressions they have created in their own companies. They are the last to seek 360 feedback and they dread an Audit of HR as it will expose them.
It is high time that they face the reality and get their image checked and correct themselves. HR definitely is at the cross roads. Are we consultants and professors from academic centers unwittingly helping them to take wrong paths? Are we playing the same game they are playing?. Are we more committed to our commercials than to the profession?
I have seen the best of the HR manager including those who got HRD awards being viewed as power brokers. The issue I raised 18 years ago in the small book on HR D Missionary on how Power can distort HR managers from doing good work seem to come true in many cases.
It is high time our HR managers introspect and get their image right.
What should they do?
What I the role of CEOs?
What is the role of those HR professionals who are value driven, process driven and expert power driven than other forms of power?
What I the role of bodies like the HRD Network, NIPM, ISTD etc.?
What is the role of academic Institutes like TISS, XLRI, and IIMS etc.
Do consultants and consulting firms also have a responsibility to their profession besides their top and bottom lines?