In defence of HR: where would we be without...?

By Jenny Roper for HR Magazine

HR can contribute a lot more than people often realise. Here are the areas no business can afford not to excel in

"There has to be some important problem in the CEO’s bailiwick and the function has to be able to address it. Finance became important because investors became important and the CFOs became important because they had the tools and answers to the questions.” That’s Wharton professor Peter Cappelli’s view on what it takes for a function to rise to prominence.

After all, if a function is not delivering something critical why would it be there in the first place? Which is why the debate around whether the HR function is needed is so mystifying, and so tiring.

So here, once and for all, our experts spell out just some of those many vital value-adds that HR delivers – those areas in today’s operating conditions, that organisations would be lost without.


1. Management

“There is no other function right now that has any claim to management – how do we manage the organisation, how do we manage change, how do we manage people? It’s there for the taking if HR could grab it. Someone else might grab it. The most likely character is the CIO, who isn’t prepared to do any of it but is happy to launch into it. HR must step up.”

Peter Cappelli, professor of management, The Wharton School

Killer stat: Poor quality people management costs employers £84 billion a year


2. Engagement

“The fundamental value that great people leaders and strategies deliver for the business is an engaged workforce. If you create this then you have happy, productive, motivated people who are delivering every day for your customers. That generates more customer satisfaction, more purchases and more profit. From this the business can grow.

Engagement is the root of all the other strategic imperatives – from recruitment and retention to talent and customer service. An engaged, motivated, values-driven workforce can be unstoppable and its potential is limitless.”

Eugenio Pirri, VP of people and organisational development, Dorchester Collection

“You have to earn commitment and engagement. You don’t do it just by running a survey; surveys are a useful diagnostic tool but need to lead to action in how staff are managed day-to-day.”

Wendy Hirsh, principal associate, Institute for Employment Studies

Killer stat: Firms with a high engagement score have revenue levels 4.5 times higher on average than those with the lowest


3. Executive team coaching

“The role of coach is crucial. A CHRO needs to be confident and really brave – to provide one-to-one feedback to the executive team, to coach leaders through people challenges and general business challenges, to listen, to support. It’s lonely at the top, after all.”

Julia Ingall, group HR and talent director (UK & EMEA), Ogilvy & Mather Group

“A key role as part of the ‘triumvirate’ [the CEO, CFO and CHRO] is networking and alignment of colleagues, a role that is most readily carried out by the CHRO. They can become the glue that holds all of the executive team together and aligned through sound objective advice and counselling.”

Helen Pitcher, chairman of Advanced Boardroom Excellence

Killer stat: Bad leadership costs UK businesses £39 billion a year