Paul Kearns

It has always struck me that if HR ever wanted to model itself on another profession then the medical world would be the obvious choice. Medics look after human bodies (and minds) while HR concerns itself with the application of human skills, capabilities, knowledge and behaviours in the workplace. Our common goal is a sound mind in a sound body applying itself to the creation of personal wellbeing and value for society. What better way to describe the mission of the HR profession?

We could take this analogy much further. For example, the ‘medical’ profession is not just comprised of doctors and nurses. There are now many other hues of medical practitioner with psychiatrists, osteopaths, chiropractors, and even those who practice homeopathic medicine. Maybe we can no longer talk about the ‘medical profession’ as a well-defined, homogeneous group with common ethical and professional standards? HR is in a similar position and it is not too difficult to discern four categories that perfectly mirror those of our medical colleagues?


Still the mainstay of the profession, the general practitioner of HR knows something about everything and can refer you to a specialist if need be. But in a world of outsourcing and a relentless search for economies of scale will ‘GP’s’ continue to exist or does everyone have to specialise in something?


Internal or external, these are the HR people with highly developed, specialist skills whether they be selection and assessment, compensation, employee relations or learning. But where is the governing body for such specialists? What credentials do they need to hold to deserve the title of Consultant and who monitors their professional practices?


Which HR practices can be regarded as mainstream, conventional and empirically validated? Are NLP practitioners the HR equivalent of acupuncturists; is leadership development as effective as Chinese herbal medicine?


Unfortunately, we must surely have our own share of quacks but what practices might fall into this category? Any suggestions?

What can HR do to achieve the same high, professional status still enjoyed by the vast majority of properly trained and qualified medical practitioners?

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New HR Charter series
You can also read all the debates around the New HR Charter and add your own comments by clicking on the links below.

The New HR Charter – Introduction

The New HR Charter Part 1 – Does HR have a reputation problem?

The New HR Charter Part 2 – What does best practice mean in HR?

The New HR Charter: Part 3 – Do competencies and 360 work?

The New HR Charter: Part 4 – The opposite of best practice?

The New HR Charter: Part 5 – HR Causality – which way does the arrow point?

The New HR Charter: Part 6 – Employer of choice?