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HR Managers need to be more multi-functional


Several comments have come from contributors that the reason HR managers don’t generally appear to make it to the level of MD comes down to the difference between a manager and a director; and the difference between an HR manager and another functional manager.

Following the tone of the original story for example, Jeremy Thorn of Doncaster firm Quantum Enterprise Development allows me to quote,

"For verily hath it been spoken: thou needeth ‘multi-functional’ skills and experience to run a successful business, save only that thou hath the exceptional good fortune to have a strong team behind thee, with which to fill in one's missing gaps. Thou needeth to see the big picture pal, and balance ‘all’ that is good and meet, wonders to perform!"

(I liked that, but I accept that I have been accused of having a ‘different’ sense of humour.)

Jeremy explained his words with more detail and this reflected many other comments received.

“I have always found that one of the major attributes that distinguish between 'Managers' and 'Directors', in any function, is their range of multi-functional experience. Forget the 'Managing Director' role, even a good ‘functional’ director needs to understand and ‘know’ more than his or her own function.

That can be difficult for any functional specialist. But the problem for all too many HR professionals, is that first, their early years are taken up with policy and procedure too much, so they too easily become process-oriented rather than ‘business-oriented’.
Secondly, they are ‘infrequently’ encouraged (or allowed?) to gather truly multi-functional experience in their early years.” by experiencing other management functions.

Another contributor suggested that too many HR managers see themselves as being purely HR managers, and don’t have, or are taught, or develop a wider vision of a ‘strategic’ whole. Holistic business views may be the domain of non-HR managers on the whole.

Jim Brown of the Bloxwich Engineering Group maybe added a little more to the picture too when he said,

“A strict HR professional is certainly not the profile for an MD, in the same way as a blinkered Accountant or an Executive from any other "narrow" discipline would not have the necessary attributes. Surely it is about vision, business acumen, leadership and self-belief”

Let me repeat that last bit, “Surely it is about vision, business acumen, leadership and self-belief”.

There is a clear message from these contributors. Too often our HR managers are seeing themselves as being ‘people’ people only, and are not prepared to give credence to a wider point of view. Additionally, there is the possibility that HR managers in their early careers shy away from exposure to work in other functions within the business, and it could be that our HR training structures and courses don’t take an holistic business view.


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