HR: A Fun Activity or a Profession?

Oops! I can imagine eyebrows raising. The notion of fun can differ from one person to another. Some recollection of "fun HR times' could be of when incentives had different names and different forms. Maybe it was when HR derived from union formation. For the longest time, HR was to almost be a "band aid" to counteract the effects of harsh working conditions. Over time, HR had become viewed as "fun" by some: party trays, Christmas party, various forms of encouragement. And again, over time, to those who viewed HR practice as such (fun), HR had become overly complicated, "professional."

Perception of HR can differ from one person to another. But I think that for the common employee, HR has too faces: the "good", caring face translating in employee incentives and nice benefits, and the "ugly", evil face translating in policies, procedures, rules and regulations, and legalities. This "two-face" HR has been omnipresent for most employees.

HR has
inevitably been evolving at the pace of the business environment. Decades ago, ethics was not such a major issue. The function of CHRO did not exist until recently. We could not imagine "sitting at the table". And yet, in some organizations, HR representatives are to be "subdued" to the general manager's or equivalent' s orders. They cannot discuss, certainly not argue: just execute. Are they in a position to discuss anyway? That is another question. An "employee", or direct report, is in no position to "argue" (understand by that "explaining why things have to be carried-out following certain procedures, and according to specific policies"), even if one is given the title of executive as long as one has no latitude to actually be one. Sounds familiar to some? And there is the "evil" face of HR. It is the HR function that "communicates", executes orders that could not be legally defensible, is expected to bring coffee to the table, without being introduced to those sitting at the table. Don't get me wrong: some senior HR is sitting at that table. Only, that senior HR is not always a fair representation of what HR should be. Why do you think so? Are you outraged? As HR practitioner, are you always in control of what a site/unit manager  or your non-HR boss decides to do? That could be debatable. On the other side, is every HR practitioner, whatever level they could be, a professional? It could be arguable.

And I cannot help but smiling at some reference to the "profession" of HR. I had a good, engineer friend who was adamant that HR could be conducted by "anybody", meaning that it is not a profession. Of course, although the HRCI, existing since 1976, and SHRM both define HR as a "profession", I have to admit that not all HR people are HR professionals. Many have embraced the profession over time. Not all practitioners, nor all professionals are created equal, in any given field. But it does not make the HR function less of a profession that should be practiced as such, that is, and among other things, evolving in pace with the business environment, with moral and ethical obligations. Not every HR practitioner understands the holistic function of HR. That is why there are different levels of HR practitioners, and different levels of HR professionals, just like in any other function.  I have to agree with some colleagues
that the bottom line is that the true face of HR is what the organization wants it to be: not in its mission statement but though its daily practice and application and/or interpretation of its policies.

The notion of fun can differ from one person to another. The face of HR has evolved. Whether we like or not its new face is another story. My sister is in the law profession and it is her notion of "fun", not mine. (background notes in HRToolbox -Why Can't HR Be More Fun?AR_HRCO)


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