HR heavyweights go head to headOn 23 Sep 2003 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article The CIPD’s Duncan Brown and HR guru Paul Kearns lock horns over HR strategyand its influence on UK plcHR is still not having enough strategic influence on British business and,as a result, the function is failing to deliver enough tangible commercial value.This was one point the ‘HR heavyweights’ did agree on at the public debateon the current state of HR strategy and business influence. Consultant Paul Kearns, one of the CIPD’s fiercest critics, argued thefunction has failed to make any significant ground in actually guiding businessor being genuinely strategic. However, CIPD assistant director-general Duncan Brown claims some progresshas been made and that Kearns dismisses the process and generalist side of HRtoo lightly. “HR is more strategic than it used to be but not as strategic as itcould be. There are excellent opportunities for HR to add value toorganisations and, increasingly, we are seeing individuals and companies thatare doing this well,” he said. He said Kearns’ criticism of HR being too process orientated was unfair andthat if recruitment and administration were not done well, organisations wouldnot function at all. Kearns began with an attack on the CIPD and said the function could onlyachieve a certain level of influence in its current form because business wasnot convinced of a connection between the HR and the bottom line. “I have been a critic of the CIPD because if you want to offer any newideas or comments, it is like disappearing into a black hole,” he said.”HRM should be about the mature approach to the function adding value tothe line and the business. Unfortunately, HR is still not regarded as a keypoint of competitive advantage and is up against a brick wall.” HR directors should be integral to the way companies plan business, with HRkey to driving up profits and beating competitors in the marketplace, he said. “I would argue that business leaders are part of the problem and thatis why we need to be more strategic. They only see short-term figures but forthese sort of issues you need a long-term strategic view.” Kearns cited the recent strike at British Airways as evidence that HR hasnot moved on in almost 25 years, with practitioners stuck in a processmentality. “How strategic is HR in these sort of situations? It has got to startmaking a real difference and I’m not talking about saving a few pounds on arecruitment advert, I’m talking about preventing a £30m strike,” he said. Brown hit back by claiming HR professionals were already contributing to thebusiness and said CIPD research proved the link between people and businessperformance. However, he admitted there was still a long way to go, with HR strategyoften little more than an “illusion in the boardroom” that was wellintentioned but poorly implemented. He urged HR directors to rethink their current role in the context ofstrategy and think how the people contribution could be measured moreaccurately. “The two big problems are perception and implementation. The professionhas often talked itself into an HR ghetto instead of getting out into thebusiness. They are happier talking to each other than other departments,”he explained. Both speakers concluded by calling on HR to widen its influence and becomemore strategic. By Ross WighamBrownon Kearns“Ifanyone is stuck in a time warp, he is. Kearns seems blissfully unaware of thechanges that have occurred in the profession.”“Theself-appointed HR strategy guru seems capable of doing little other thanmisrepresenting what other people write.”“Hisbackward-looking, curmudgeonly pessimism doesn’t reflect the reality of HRtoday. What has Kearns ever done to help?”Kearnson Brown“Iwould not expect the vast majority of CIPD members or HR practitioners toappreciate how [strategy] impacts upon their own work.”“Whilethe CIPD may be the voice of the personnel profession, it is not the voice ofHR in business.”“Ithas always struck me as odd why anyone should seek a qualification from aprofessional institute that commands so little respect from the businesscommunity or the Government.”The showdownAlthough it failed to live up to its ‘clash of the titans’billing, despite the pre-fight bickering, the public debate was a valuableforum for two different schools of thought.In the red corner, Paul Kearns berated HR for failing to havestrategic input and not adding and real, measurable value to companies. In the blue corner, CIPD assistant director-general DuncanBrown argued that Kearns was being too hard on the profession as a lot ofprogress had been made in becoming more business focused.As a public slanging match, the event was a bit of a dampsquib, with Kearns admitting he had “warmed to Duncan since meeting himface to face”, and even loaning his opponent a copy of his latest book tohelp prop up his projector.Somebody obviously forgot to light the blue touch paper as bothmen were more jovial with each other than earlier insults would suggest,although almost nobody escaped Kearns’ wrath, from accountants to the tradeunion movement.Brown was slightly more jovial than the charismatic butintimidating Kearns and, in reality, the two men have closer views on HR thaneither would probably care to admit.In boxing parlance, the grudge match was probably a points drawwith both men coming across as passionate about the subject.Theclear message to HR was “stop backing off and get out there and doit.” Related posts:No related photos.