- Our keynote speaker Peter Bluckert is someone I have high regard for having done a post-graduate course in Executive Coaching under his supervision a few years ago.
- As a former HR Manager I have taken a close interest in how the profession has evolved since I got my first HR job with Thermo King back in 1977.
I am very disappointed that the HR function has lost its place at an executive level in many organisations over the past 30 years despite the fact that HR has become recognised as a profession in that time frame and despite the fact that most HR practitioners are better educated and have a broader understanding of HR than their counterparts of 30 years ago.
In the late ’70s and early ’80s HR hadn’t come into being in Ireland and what we had was Personnel Managers who had responsibility for IR and whose performance was measured by limited but very important goals such as:-
- Ensuring no work days were lost due to strikes
- Concluding an in company pay agreement within budget
- Maintaining low absenteeism, good timekeeping and low staff turnover
Back then it was a male-dominated profession populated by IR practitioners who could do deals with trade union officials in smoke-filled offices or more often in smoke-filled bars.
This was a time of very negative industrial relations with a proliferation of powerful trade unions which meant that although the role of Personnel Manager was a narrow one it was a very powerful and important one and because of that it usually occupied a position at the top table in most big large employers.
Thankfully the role of the Personnel Manager has moved on dramatically since then and IR has evolved into ER and more recently into HR.
In the 80’s and 90’s trade unions were increasingly bypassed by new FDI companies who did not want to engage with the traditional adversarial style model of industrial relations.
Local bargaining at plant level disappeared in 1987 with the first of many national wage agreements and this removed one of the key roles of the traditional Personnel Manager.
As this process of change acquired momentum more and more women started to come into the profession.
The IPM evolved into the IPD and eventually into the CIPD and the CIPD Western Region in particular.
Courses in Personnel Management moved beyond the original location of the National College of Industrial Relations and accredited courses started to spring up in most universities and IT’s.
The CIPD appointed Barry Hill to assist people HR practitioners going through the accreditation process.
All of this was good news but somewhere along the way despite there being an increased awareness that people were a company’s greatest asset HR somehow lost its traditional place at the top table.
I believe this happened quite simply because many of the traditional Personnel Managers became increasingly seen as one-trick pony’s and many failed to re-invent themselves and show that they could make a broader HR and business contribution to the organisations they worked for.
So as a generation of HR Managers started to retire they were increasingly replaced at a Personnel Officer level. Even if some of the new appointees were awarded the title of Personnel Manager most effectively operated at one level below the senior management team and as such they did not have a significant input in the long term business plan of their organisations.
I strongly believe that this situation needs to change. I think HR should seek to reclaim its position of speaking for the key business asset i.e. its people and to seek to make this contribution as a member of the senior management team. I think this makes sense because the people I meet in HR nowadays are much better educated than the typical fire fighting IR practitioner of the past.
Of course, this role will not be handed to HR – it will have to be earned by practitioners doing things such as:-
- Proactively showing the benefits of HR in their organisation in tangible terms.
- Making a broader contribution across all functions of the business
- Taking the time to really understand the business, its products, its processes, its technology and its business model.
- Being open to taking rotational assignments.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are very fortunate to have three eminent speakers here today – Mick Loughnane from the ESB, Colin Curran from Teleflex Medical and Peter Bluckert of PB Coaching.
If these speakers can point us in the direction of how HR can make a strategic contribution at a senior level in an organisation and if they can show us how coaching might be part of the strategy then I think today’s event will have been very worthwhile.
Thank you for your attention and I hope you enjoy the rest of the CIPD Western seminar.
Founder & Management Consultant
Collins McNicholas Recruitment & HR Services Group