Stop Telling People You Work In HR

You will no longer identify yourself as, “Oh, I work in human resources.”

You are now a human capital strategist. When someone asks what you do, that will be your response.

That was my last thought of the day when I conducted a Human Capital Strategist certification course this past week in New York for the Human Capital Institute. My reason was that when we meet people and say that I work in HR, we always get that look.

A Rorschach test is the perfect analogy for this, since mentioning HR gets you all sorts of reactions, many of them not at all positive. I was even told onetime that HR was useless, after mentioning my credentials.

Rebrand that sucker

The word “Personnel” from years ago would never be used in the context of modern HR. Just as that word has passed its prime, it is time for “HR” to go. It has outlived its usefulness. The name needs to change and the sooner the better. Branding plays such an integral role in everything we do or experience; now is the perfect time for us to rebrand.

Just recently someone shared an article concerning Airbnb and how the head of HR is now the Chief Employee Experience officer. Their thought in changing the title was to apply the same philosophy of creating memorable customer experiences to keep their own employees engaged and happy. The essence of the “workplace as an experience” in their thinking is where all the elements of work — the physical, the emotional, the intellectual, the virtual, and the aspirational — are all orchestrated to inspire employees.

The article was so inspiring, and synced perfectly with my thoughts. This is our space and we must move into the new era of change; HR as we know it is done, finito. The transition to the next stage is in progress, moving from the transactional to the strategic. That alone is enough for a name change.

Competencies makeover

When you compare the competencies of the new HR with the old, the change is 180 degrees. The new list of competencies shows us that the required skills, along with the job, have changed. Even if you are in a transactional focused role or office, be prepared because it is only a matter of time before you’ll need those new skills.

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According to SHRM the list of competencies is comprised of the following

  • Business acumen
  • Relationship management
  • Consultation
  • Critical evaluation
  • Global and cultural effectiveness
  • Ethical practice
  • Leadership & navigation
  • Communication
  • HR expertise

Hire for future state

This list reads more like a consultant’s skill set, which is the point. This skill set, based on the new dynamics of the organization, demonstrates pretty clearly how much the role has changed. So if you have open requisitions for roles within your department, it behooves you to make the adjustment and start hiring for the future department. In other words, hire for future state.

Organizations and businesses today are looking to human resources leaders as consulting professionals who are very creative about helping them evolve. That need is for what I refer to as the “consultant within.” In highly competitive workplace environments, employers who are the most successful are often viewed as an” employer of choice.” That branding is worth its weight in gold.

HR as a competitive advantage

With increasing global competition, that is the kind of employer businesses and organizations should strive to be. Today’s employers do not want to leave any stone unturned in trying to get a competitive advantage. The organization that stocks the most talent and cultivates it will win in a landslide. I call this the greenhouse effect. You run a controlled environment, you water, fertilize as needed and when harvest time comes, you reap.

Now is the time to begin the makeover process. It is a new day and organizations need so much more from us. That first step is to change the brand name. It has been sullied, drug through the mud, beaten up and misused. Rebranding along with upgrading the skills within will begin the process of moving into the new space.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.


1 Comment on “Stop Telling People You Work In HR

  1. Oh please! Here we go again. You want eye rolls? Wait until you tell people you are a “human capital strategist.” The reason for lack of credibility in the human resources function is a result of the lack of credibility, performance, results in the incumbents. (also as a result of creating new titles) And those who continue to abbreviate the human resources as HR have also done the function a disservice. Do you ever hear the leaders of operations, law, finance, planning, etc refer to their jobs as ops, gc, acctg, pg,? The objective is to build credibility in the function, not to constantly run away from it by changing the name. Those in human resources should be proud of their function, work to build their function, instead they want to continually run away from the mess they have created.
    By the way, the SHRM competencies are the same competencies almost any leadership position in an organization would require. Change the last competency to the functional area and these are what any leader should possess.
    All you title proponent folks should have a serious conversation with senior management. If they can be honest with you they will tell you how much amusement they get from the human resources title creations. While finance, legal, quality, sales have worked to make their functions more relevant, human resources has instead believed that a new title will give them relevance. Magical thinking?
    In some organizations we have employees (can we call them that or is there a new title?) roaming the hallways looking for a human resources professional to discuss their issue. But all they find are the human capital strategists.
    Give it some thought people.

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