Are HR professionals professional? - HR Profesionalism #1
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Do you feel professional in what you do as a HR person?  Are you proud to be in HR?  What would you say your success within HR is down to - is it what you know or who you are?

Interestingly, at the recent SHRM conference in Las Vegas the 14,000 HR delegates were encouraged to buy T-shirts which boldly stated “I love HR”!! Wow – is this something peculiar to North Americans and their love of showmanship or are we just cynical at CourageousHR?  Interesting point though - would you be proud to wear such a T-Shirt and what would the reaction be of your business leaders?

Well, it seems from our own research and others that there is some confusion over what it now means to be a HR Professional.  Until relatively recently, HR was defined by its technical expertise whereas now it is more about what we do and who we are.  Worryingly, there are still lots of people with strong HR knowledge but few with the business acumen or personal strength to work with and really challenge line managers about what they are doing.  Much has been written about what the HR BP changes mean for HR people and most of it focuses on the knowledge and skills required, but less fuss is made about the mindset, attitudes and beliefs of HR professionals.

At CourageousHR we believe that many within the HR Professional community are getting a bit too big for their boots by getting carried away with the allure of HR Partnership and losing sight of getting the basics right.  It is almost as if the pendulum has totally shifted from only a few years ago where HR success was more down to technical proficiency whilst people and leadership qualities were incidental.  We will all probably have horror stories of HR bosses who saw people as the problem and an excel spreadsheet as the solution; where they did more harm than good!

Good enough HR technical knowledge is, and always will be, an essential building block to becoming a competent HR Professional rather than an optional extra.  Without this technical foundation we are not only devaluing the service we should be offering the business but we are potentially becoming an organisational risk.  Only recently, we have heard of cases where organisations have had to make large financial settlements to employees who were not correctly made redundant.

So, this begs the question, are we as a profession as technically good as we believe we are or are we losing touch with reality by believing that HR technical expertise is now incidental to our overall success (in other words the required HR knowledge is so easy to pick up we don’t need to bother about it too much)?  By the way, if this is the case then HR is on a slippery slope to oblivion as organisations will wake up one day and realise that HR’s value is illusory and that what we do can be done (probably more cheaply and more effectively) by others.

Anyway, back to today’s reality.  The other issue for HR Professionals is that unless we have the necessary underpinning technical knowledge we will lack the credibility to work effectively with the business to address increasingly complex people issues.  That is why we are keen for HR Professionals to take pride in what they do so they have the confidence to be innovative, supportive and challenging when working with business leaders.

So, now HR is faced with the double challenge of not only ensuring we find ways of maintaining a sufficient level of technical expertise but also how to balance that with our need to be powerful partners with the business.  Our take on this is that too often people make the leap from being a HR Manager to a HR Partner without really having the personal confidence to go out into their business and make a clear and strong statement of their intent to be a valuable member of the leadership team.

Now this is probably down to many reasons and we are not going to go into any amateur psychology as to why this may be the case.  However, it does appear to us at CourageousHR that one of the fundamental problems is we lack the self-belief, self-confidence and clarity of purpose (otherwise known as self-efficacy) to go out into the big world of business in our own right.

There’s been some great research done by Albert Bandura into what factors affect professional confidence (not just HR) and he has identified a strong correlation between self-efficacy and work performance.  In other words, if as a HR Professional we have a belief in our ability to succeed we are more likely to view challenges as something to be mastered rather than avoided.  He identifies four key approaches to building self-efficacy:

  • Personal mastery – allowing people to experience success through a series of managed experiences
  • Modeling success –  identifying other people like them who are successful and modeling what they do
  • Positive feedback – focusing on what works and reinforcing this
  • Enabling working environment – giving people the tools to help them manage their level of confidence and in particular, reduce people’s stress so giving them the best opportunity to thrive

Has any of this happened to you?  Is this what has helped you to become a great HR Professional?  Didn’t think so!  Most of the time we will muddle through, make mistakes, go down blind alleys, be lucky and only occasionally can we honestly say some development happened as planned. 

Therefore, the remaining blogs in this HR Professional series will explore each of these four key approaches to help you to become as good a HR professional as you want to be.

To find out how CourageousHR can support the development of your HR Function please email [email protected] to arrange a call to discuss your specific development needs