What is HR really for?

In these difficult times, how can the 'people' department escape their negative image, asks Stefan Stern?

Caught up with cost-cutting measures and making redundancies, the corporate 'people' department is in danger of becoming a bureaucratic pariah. So how can it eliminate the negative - the black humour and the resentment? Stefan Stern shows the way forward for HR professionals - if they are bold enough.

Good old Yellow Pages. It doesn't help just with the nasty things in life, like a blocked drain. It's there for the nice things too, like tracking down an old copy of Fly Fishing by JR Hartley. How unlike those dreadful old HR managers. They really are only there for the nasty things in life, like sacking people - legally. Busy time they are having of it right now too.

It may sound harsh, but the unfortunate truth is that of all the functional departments, HR vies only with IT for the amount of opprobrium it traditionally attracts from everyone else, and the sourness of the gibes made at its expense. It's 'Human Remains' or the 'business prevention department', filled with 'no' men and women who spend their days doing pointless surveys and ticking boxes, apparently unencumbered by any appreciation of the commercial imperative, or of where their salaries come from. Best avoided by normal people if at all possible.

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