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Being a ‘people expert’ key to HR

Published: December 23, 2016

Being an ‘expert in people’ is the most important aspect of human resources, claims new research.

The most important aspect of working in human resources (HR) is being aficionado when it comes to people, claims a new study.

A recent Twitter poll – conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) – revealed that 41 per cent of respondents believed this to be the case, while 33 per cent of those polled claimed that being ‘business-savvy’ was the key to success.

However, respondents recognised that these work in tandem with each other, rather than on their own.

The CIPD did a similar poll among its community of members the same questions, the reactions were different compared to the Twitter survey. Being an expert in people came fifth, behind situational judgement, professional development and being ‘business-savvy’.

Respondents didn’t disagree that being an expert in people is important, but instead believed that the idea didn’t leave room for “progress, innovation or situational judgement”.

They also felt that acting for the good of society and being accountable to peers were also important aspects of professionalism in HR. These scored highly in the Twitter poll, but received only 12 per cent and 14 per cent respectively in the CIPD’s community survey.

Social and ethical responsibility scored fairly low in both polls, but those who did believe these ideas should play a part made compelling arguments for their reasoning. For example, one respondent said that HR professionals have a remit that extends beyond making money, either as individuals or for their organisations.

Another said that those in the industry shouldn’t be “de-coupled” from society, as much of what HR professionals has wider impact – both direct and indirect – on the country as a whole.

Ruth Stuart, head of strategy development at the CIPD, believes that to be champions of HR, it’s vital that professionals use their expert knowledge to challenge decisions and behaviour they don’t agree with.

“If not, then rather than being ambassadors for the HR profession, we risk becoming slaves to business outcomes,” she explained.

“It’s not about denying businesses the right or need to make profit, it’s about encouraging organisations to think more deeply about how they go about it and what end that profit serves in the long run.”

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