Editor’s letter: The future is bright for HR, but there’s still work to do

The somewhat darker tone of several speakers at the European HR Directors Summit highlighted a need to awaken the HR profession to some areas for progression.


I was struck by the somewhat darker tone of several speakers at the European HR Directors Summit held earlier this week.

That’s not to suggest the sky is falling on the profession, but there are certainly those calling for an awakening to some of the needs for progression.

In February at the HR Directors Business Summit in Birmingham the mood, at least of the keynote speakers, was a lot more positive and upbeat.

Perhaps this turn of mood was always likely to be the case with the Amsterdam event being led-off by Ram Charan.

Charan is known for the directness and outspoken nature of his work, but it comes from a place of wanting to see people and businesses working better – and clearly he views HR as vital in that regard.

He signed-off his session noting that “this is the era for the CHRO”.

Indeed this was followed by Bunge EMEA CEO Tommy Jensen declaring his realisation of the importance of the HR function for the business too.

However both these speakers also highlighted that all is not necessarily well within the profession as a whole.

Much of this can be solved by taking a step back and realising that HR is there to serve the business; and in so doing it can really become a driver of business success – the identification and retention of key talent being the most obvious element.

In saying this I may well be stating the obvious for those who have already realised this and applied it in your own organisations and careers, but it is perhaps worth repeating for more junior members of the profession who will set the tone for the next decades.

I’ve been struck over the last few months how often it has been mentioned by many people of various organisations, roles and geographies that HR or related operations are recruiting people from outside typical HR sources to fill skills gaps – and the surprise this generates within the HR community.

That these people do not come from a HR background should not be a problem. If their skills enable people and organisations to work better none of that should matter.

But it may take some time for the full realisation to hit that, as Philips CHRO Denise Haylor put it, “the competition is on the outside”.

And as Charam reiterated, not only is it important for HR professionals to gain experience within other elements of the business, it is important for people from other specialities to learn the ways and importance of HR as well.

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