Paul Kearns

Following on from the last debate: Does HR have a reputation problem?, Paul Kearns now encourages you to consider ‘What does best practice mean in HR?’ Please take part by posting your comments – simply click on ‘add comments’ at the end of this story.

It is very reassuring to see the majority of contributions so far supporting the idea that HR should be a potential source of value even if there seems to be some consensus that HR does indeed currently have an image problem. But saying we can and should add lots of value is one thing – actually doing it is another. The Charter is not intended to be just a subject for debate it is meant to act as a practical benchmark for all existing HR functions.

Traditionally, most HR teams would regard the work they do as effective as long as it purported to follow something called ‘best practice’. This would include appraisal or performance review systems, competence frameworks and the like.

Yet, ironically, this is probably one of the main reasons why HR has earned itself a very dubious reputation. HR ‘professionals’ are inclined to impose pre-prepared solutions on their organisations regardless of the context or their business priorities. They also assume that these practices must be of some benefit without actually collecting any evidence to support their use or demonstrate their effectiveness.

So, are you following best practice? If you believe you are, how would you convince somebody that it is ‘best’? More importantly, what results do you get from these practices?

Of course, another view is that ‘best practice’ can simply be defined as ‘doing what everyone else in HR is doing’. We can explore some of these practices in more detail later but for now the question is what constitutes professional HR? The Charter specifically stipulates that:

3. HR should link all its activity to business measures with a clear line of sight.

4. HR should report openly and honestly on its results and learn from its mistakes.

5. HR should only use practices whose effectiveness have been demonstrated or make everyone aware when they are engaging in experimental activity.

– So does your own HR function meet this standard in any way?

– Which of your activities have a clear line of sight to a business performance measure?

– What have you learned in the past? (I learned many years ago that appraisal forms do not work very well so why do so many organisations still use them?).

– What are you currently trying out as a new method and are you prepared to admit that it is an experiment? If you are experimenting, what indicators will tell you whether your experiment is working or not?

Related item
The new HR Charter: Part 1 – Does HR have a reputation problem?
The new HR Charter: Introduction