If you think Corporate HR departments are having a tough time (viz Rob Sitch’s Utopia and all the noise about the relevance of Appraisals etc) …spare a thought for those working as sole practitioners in medium and small businesses.
They have to ply their profession in a world that is particularly vulnerable to volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Their businesses are not cushioned by size and well resourced departments; they are on their own and exposed all the time.
Given this, the hardest part of working as an HR professional in this context is that they are scrutinised all the time. Sceptical line managers are looking for signs that reinforce their view that the HR person will be soft/bureaucratic and irrelevant.
More than ever, I would encourage the HR person to:
Brush up on the science of the profession. To not be distracted by populist thinking or anecdotal evidence. (Vanity Fair recently had an “in depth” about performance reviews!)
Nail down the fundamental tenets of the business. This is often the most difficult – but once the leadership group has defined what performance, behaviours, accountabilities really means in the business –reference it in every conversation.
Sharpen the narrative – use it at the start of every conversation and ensure it is not “HR” speaking – but it’s the business leaders principles.
Keep the initiatives “embarrassingly” simple
Get a HRM coach to help reflect on the impact in and across the business.