How to fix HR's reputation - Part II

Fixing HR’s Reputation – Part II

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post on the state of HR’s reputation with the business. My assumptions on that post were based on anecdotal and personal evidence of my interactions with Business and HR professionals over the years.

I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that I was at an HR conference in late January and that I came away with so much. Today I want to talk about HR’s reputation. In the Conference edition of the HR Professional magazine, my anecdotes and personal opinion were corroborated with statistical evidence (HRProfessional Magazine, page). The article talks about the public perception of professionalism in HR with research based on a 2018 Ipsos survey of approximately 2000 members of non-HR professionals. The results weren’t great.

The article describes professionalism as the attitudes, values and behaviours of an individual which included one of more of the following characteristics: maturity of character, dedication to one’s craft, a disciplined approach to ones work, emotional self-control, trustworthiness, honesty, high ethical standards, high standards of one’s work, and intrinsically motivated.

Only 29% of the public had a positive opinion of HR Professionals and believed that HR professionals had high or very high honesty and ethical standards. This was the second lowest among regulated professionals, with lawyers being the lowest (an interesting result considering we work so closely with legal professionals).

The survey also found that regulated professions such as Accountants scored much higher. Another interesting point when you consider that CFOs are frequently held in higher regard than CHROs (if the CHRO position even exists in the organization).

What isn’t clear from these studies is which of the characteristics people were considering when they answered the questions on the survey. It’s hard to imagine that anyone would doubt HR’s honesty, trustworthiness or our maturity. But there it is. And, let’s be honest, it’s a little hard not to take it personally, isn’t it? After all, the definition of professionalism includes attitudes, values and behaviours of individuals, not systems (we’ve already established that the system needs an overhaul).

The point of this blog post isn’t to rehash the stats in the HR Professional article. It’s to highlight a real problem facing our profession and start thinking about how we can fix it.

We have a lot of work to do, guys!

Rather than provide answers or solutions to the problem, I’d like to pose a few questions to you, my fellow HR Professionals:

What attitudes do you feel contribute to professionalism?

The HR Professional article gives us some broad categories such as high ethical standards and high standards of one’s work. What else could we focus on to develop an attitude that amplifies our professionalism? Here are a few that I think to make a big difference:

  • Putting our clients first, whether they’re employees or managers of the company.
  • Making sure that every piece of work we do is with the client’s benefit first, whether that’s rethinking performance management, compensation plans, coaching, advice.
  • Have a strategic mindset. This is such a broad category, but it begs to mention because too many of us get caught up in putting out the fire of the hour, as opposed to determining root causes of the issues causing us to sometimes spin around in circles. Not a great look from our clients’ perspective.
  • Develop an “Everything is figureoutable” attitude. This concept comes from Marie Forleo, a business and life coach who I greatly admire. The basic premise is that there is no problem that doesn’t have a solution, whether that’s ours or the client’s problem. When we have this attitude, we eliminate the “we can’t do that” response from our vocabulary.

What behaviours contribute to our professionalism?

Trustworthiness and honesty are paramount in this profession, so it is a little shocking that anyone would question our integrity in that respect. The logical conclusion is that our behaviours don’t match our values, or not to the extent we want them to. Here are a few things to think about and, no doubt, you’ll think of more:

  • How often do we keep confidential things confidential? This is a tough one because sometimes we have to share what people tell us in order to solve their problem. But how can we share the information without betraying confidences and still solve the problem? Some say that’s impossible, but if we are to earn people’s trust, we have to think bigger and come up with a solution to that problem. Perhaps it means telling people up front that we can’t keep that particular thing confidential if we want to solve their problem. Perhaps that means learning a different way of approaching the issue with managers.
  • How often do we give our clients the information they need to make an informed decision? How often do we have a vested interest in our clients’ successes? If we think about our clients’ success as our success, we start to put a different spin on the advice we give them. It becomes less about policies and legal constraints and more about creative solutions to problems (I had a boss once who was a master at this; watch for an interview with her in a future blog post).
  • Getting back to people on time, doing what we say we will do, and thinking beyond the confines of HR. These are easy to implement and have a huge impact for our clients.

This blog post isn’t meant to provide answers to the big problems that our profession faces. It is meant to trigger discussion and start that journey towards changing that 29% to an 85%. If you’re shocked by the results of the HRPA survey, then let this blog post provide the wake-up call you need to get into action.

I’d love to hear from you! Are you surprised by the results? What are you going to do to change this perception of HR?

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Hyperlink the underlined words to the blog post called “A Grassroots Guide to Fixing HR’s Reputation”

Note the hyperlink to the article

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