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Cheryl Allen

Atos

Group HR Director – Strategy, Transformation & Employee Experience

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Why it’s time to rebrand HR

The changing nature of work and business models has applied pressure to HR to truly partner and enable the transformation. But with growing misconceptions of what HR is there to do, is now the time for a rebrand?
brown and green mountains under blue sky during daytime representing a transformation and rebrand for HR

HR needs a rebrand. There, I said it. And I don’t mean changing the name of the function to People or Talent.. 

That is simply putting lipstick on the pig. What we need is to change the pig; a total overhaul of the function – what it is and what it does.

Having recently read many reviews on studies on HR, I feel saddened, even upset, by comments such as how HR is ‘strangling the economy’, is ‘a parasite on businesses, eroding profits’ or even considered as a ‘tax’. 

As a HR professional for over 25 years, I have myself been part of the evolution from being seen as the team dealing with the hiring and firing, administering the payroll and developing policy through to some of the transformational advancements we have today.

These include:

  • Driving meaningful impact through the use of analytics and evidence based HR
  • Leading in the creation and formation of amazing communities and networks that enable people to feel that they belong
  • Introducing leading technologies such as generative artificial intelligence (AI) to truly disrupt how we work and deliver to our customers

I feel saddened, even upset, by comments such as how HR is ‘strangling the economy’

We’re going through changes

This evolution didn’t happen overnight, but it has happened. The last four years have probably brought about more change to businesses, operating models and ways of working than the previous two decades put together. 

Much of this change has been led and driven by the HR function, including:

  • Hybrid ways of working
  • Introduction of new technology changing the makeup and tasks of people’s jobs
  • Health anxiety, mental health issues and burnout surges of our people and their loved ones
  • Taking care of the hygiene factors of pay, benefits, life events and more

According to a recent study, 92% of C-Suite executives believe the perceived value of HR is a challenge for the profession and 60% of leaders see HR as an administrative function.

But where and why do these misconceptions derive from? 

We need to re-define our purpose and value proposition

Setting the record straight

Well, having had the pleasure of helping my eldest daughter to prepare for her mock GCSEs, I have some insight into this. 

For her Business Studies course, I was testing her knowledge on key functions and what they are responsible for. When she got to HR, I have to say I was dumbfounded. 

The answer and definition she is being taught to learn is ‘the function that deals with administration and takes care of the paperwork’. Really! Is this what we are teaching our next gen business leaders? 

Needless to say, I corrected her (although I am not sure my definition fits in the marking criteria as correct!). Firstly, this does nothing to inspire students to pursue a career in HR. Secondly, it creates an impression of the value of HR in a business, and that’s before they have even set foot in the workplace! 

So, what should we do? Firstly, we need to re-define our purpose and value proposition.

Take good care of the hygiene factors

We still have a duty to ensure pay, benefits, safety etc. but we must find the best way to do these efficiently. 

We need to use technology to build a positive employee experience that removes the administration and automates. This will save time, errors and money and allow HR to re-focus.

Understand the business and industry in which you operate

What are the real challenges the business is facing? This gives us an opportunity to show our worth – think through how you can use evidence-based HR and data insights to truly help address that challenge. 

I have a great example of using data insights to inform optimal workforce planning of project managers that drove a significant saving to the cost base of the business whilst also reducing travel time and improving work life balance for the project managers themselves.

We need to use technology to build a positive employee experience

Be a useful leader not just a useful HR leader

Some of the best out there know the business, have strong relationships with their peers internally and externally and readily get involved in client engagements, bids and other critical business activity. 

Get involved and develop your skills far wider than the profession (and you never know you may be the next CEO!).

Right now is a truly exciting time to be in HR

Get ahead of the curve 

You need to future proof yourself and your team. If I hadn’t personally transformed myself (and yes, I have even learnt to code!), I would not be relevant in today’s world. 

Be curious, be future focused and experiment – know what is happening out there or what is coming, get involved and, most importantly, never stop learning.

I genuinely believe right now is a truly exciting time to be in HR. For those in organisations that truly ‘get HR’, there is already amazing trail blazing work underway. 

For others struggling with the ‘prove your worth’ dilemma, I hope you can see there is hope. But it will require some re-skilling, some investment and some strong will and determination but you can do it! 

Now is the time to grab hold of the opportunity, re-define the purpose of HR, demonstrate our value proposition and then get to business and close down this conversation once and for all!

If you enjoyed this, read: Channelling chameleons: Why HR team’s must be agents of change in 2024

Author Profile Picture
Cheryl Allen

Group HR Director – Strategy, Transformation & Employee Experience

Read more from Cheryl Allen
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