HR is a Luxury Item

I once had weekly debates with a colleague over the importance of HR, and of course, being an accountant, she argued that first comes the money – then comes the people management. As a fresh HR grad, of course, I argued it should really be first comes the team of excellence – the comes the money. And, of course, both of us were kind of right. (That’s the best and worst kind of debate, repeating and ending only for the mercy of the friendship.)
So here I am back in a small city run by small business and the demand for HR is low. It can be spoken about like it’s a luxury, something only affordable to big business. But I think it ties in with the argument my colleague and I had. It’s both right and wrong.
It all depends on how you look at it:

Business owners will invariably look at Graph 2, looking at the affordability of the headcount and rationalising that HR only becomes a necessity at point B. HR folk would definitely identify more with Graph 1, and fight to the death that HR only ever really becomes a luxury at point A. And they’re both kind of right.
The thing is, if they were able to negotiate and understand each other, there is a clear-as-day middle point. They both are saying the same thing. It just requires one of them to flip the continuum of HR to being a luxury-necessity so their graphs match. And that’s what HR can do, so easily, so convincingly, so professionally – if we just have some business operation perspective to aid us. And a little worldly perspective doesn’t hurt either.

And I think that’s the differentiation between a HR professional and an outstanding HR Godsend. Because if you understand and can see that HR is being perceived as a luxury, rather than a necessity, you’ll do anything to deliver incredible HR outcomes. But if you don’t see your good as a luxury, you’ll never understand the expectations on your delivery. So yes, value your profession as highly as you should, but flip the axis and deliver the outcomes as a privileged luxury goods provider. Even though we think we are the recyclable shopping bag required by every household, we are seen as the luxury bag bought only when someone ‘arrives’. It’s not ideal, but work it girlfriend.

Btw, if you’re wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR – here‘s my explanation.

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  • 2 September 2013