What do the UK Government, Investors in People, Ofsted, HM Inspectorate of Police, National Audit Office, the Audit Commission and quite a few other organisations all have in common? Quite a lot actually. For a start, they all try to audit HR practices and the impact they have. Another thing is that none of them know how to do it properly. Yet this does not stop them producing spurious benchmarks or league tables of relative ‘performance.’
Auditing HR: From stupid measures to effectiveness
I was speaking at a conference on best value in local government at the CBI headquarters in London a few years ago and I was on the platform with a representative of the Audit Commission’s Best Value Inspectorate. I suggested to the assembled group of training managers that if they have to measure training then one measure to avoid at all costs, the most stupid measure of all, is the number of training days they deliver per annum.
I asked if they agreed with my view that this did not measure training, learning or application and they all, overwhelmingly, agreed. So why did they persist in collecting such a measure? In reply, one lady pointed at the Audit Commission Representative behind me on the stage and remarked – ‘because he says we have to.’ I immediately turned to him and asked if this were true and he said it was – but only because he did not know of any better way of measuring training ‘effectiveness.’
That is the problem with auditing, it demands measures even if the right measures don’t exist. It then compounds the crime by making audit recommendations based on stupid measures. So how can the HR Charter help?
- Well it puts the emphasis on output not input. It doesn’t matter how much you spend on HR or training practices as long as it can be seen to be a sound investment. There is no such thing as cheap or expensive HR – only good or bad investments.
- Auditing has a quality control mindset. It highlights when rules are broken or procedures are not followed. The HR Charter takes a quality assurance perspective. Effectiveness, quality and success should always be incorporated.
- Auditing is of little or no use if no one learns from their mistakes. The HR Charter promotes the use of learning systems not crude measures and targets that more often than not used for rapping hard-pressed public servants over the knuckles for the smallest transgression of petty rules.
If you have any similar horror stories about HR auditing or the impact that traditional auditing has had on the people in your organisation then we would love to hear from you.
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.