HR – What is it good for?

Is HR friend or foe? Cinderella or the ugly sister? Strategic partner or doer of dirty work?

At a social gathering this weekend, a young grafter in the group launched into an exposition of current work challenges.   The energy of youth, the desire for things to be “right” and “fair” and without politics.

For the older heads in the room, it was familiar ground; being squashed between rivals, lack of role clarity leading to confusion, conflict existing in all its glory and because like Banquo conflict can’t be “seen” despite the feelings that rage around its existence, people avoid it, instead spreading around it’s bloody trail, cleaning up a little, but the wound still bleeds.

So, the conversation rolled on.  In that room sat NHS clinicians, IT analysts, Construction Managers, Teachers, Engineers; all of whom tread the rocky road of the corporation, steadfast in their conviction that “it’s  how things are”.  So the advice flowed towards the young protagonist.    Lots of practical hints and tips; at one stage she said “I thought I might go and see HR tomorrow”.    Caboom.  Silence.  And here’s what she was told by the collective wisdom and experience around her:

“No no no, that would be a mistake”

“Don’t bother”

“you’ll be seen as a trouble maker”

“What are they going to do? Leave it”.

Now, it was the right advice in one sense; it isn’t an HR issue, the resolution lies within our hero reflecting and thinking of a different way to get her toast buttered.  But our hero was thinking, “surely there is someone who’ll stick up for me”.  What attitudes is she going to carry away about HR from that conversation?

I have two stories about talking to HR.

Many years ago, I was desperately looking for help, I felt bullied and undermined.  I went to the HR Manager.  She barely looked at me, and advised me to talk to my manager.  The bully.  I will never forget the cruelty of her callous collusion.   I did survive and grow from that time, and infact, something good and strong came from it.

Many years ago, I was desperately looking for help. I felt frustrated and helpless.  I went to the HR adviser.  She was new in role, inexperienced and at times felt vulnerable.  I knew, I was her coach.    Still, I needed an ear.  I remember sitting the canteen, ranting a bit, crying a bit.  She listened, encouraged, challenged a lot and was generally magnificent.  I remember that too.

Whatever HR is, it has a profound lifetime impact on people.  It may be an incorrect holiday calculation, a typo in a contract, a warm smile of encouragement and a hello on day one, a warm smile of encouragement and a goodbye on day the last. It will all be remembered, and felt.   In between there are so many ways that HR touches the life of individuals; HR professionals have a balance to strike between protecting their employer and supporting the employee.  Is this a permanent unending paradox?

I’m interested in exploring this.

What do you think HR is good for?

Making, creating, connecting and reaching out

In addition to my consultancy work, I  work for Drake Music; here’s our vision

“Non-disabled people can make music in many ways and at many different levels. Our vision is a world where disabled people have the same range of opportunities, and a culture of integrated music-making, where disabled and non-disabled musicians work together as equals.”

We are blogging and tweeting about something we are creating; I’d like to invite readers of my own blog to read this blog, RT it out, get involved, put us in contact with people you think may be interested in helping; have resources that we could use.  Thanks for taking the time to do this.

 We’re creating something unique and we’d like to invite you to get involved and co-create it together.  It started off as a dream about an unconference, and is beginning to become a reality that is about discovery and inclusion.

“We discussed providing a space, virtual and real for stuff to happen; live streams, audio boos, live tweeting and blogging, using technology to co-create across distance, playing with technology to see what can happen.  Simple music making space, composition, demo-ing what we can do, pushing the boundaries of what we can do.  Playing with music, technology, ideas, thoughts – hacking what we have to create something new.”

At Drake Music, we aim to remove disabling barriers so people of all ages, abilities and communities can access and progress in music making.  Our ambition for our making, creating, connecting and reaching out is to bring as many people together as possible to help us broaden our reach and bust a few barriers.  We want disabled musicians everywhere to feel connected, to identify potential for collaborations, and to play, play, play with music and technology. We need some stuff to make this happen in early May 2013 and welcome your input:

  • we would love to hear from disabled musicians/artists interested in developing these ideas and help create the event
  • a  beautifully accessible space that is big enough to accommodate disabled musicians, artists, tecchies, teachers, thinkers, funders…. – do you know of somewhere, do you own somewhere; what could you suggest?
  • a fully accessible virtual space so you can connect with us wherever you are – we need your thoughts and ideas!
  • we always welcome funding; the more funding we have, the more we can do with our making, creating, connecting, reaching & discovery.

Please share this, tweet it, blog it, reblog it, talk about it, email it, print it, pin it up somewhere.


Martin Couzins @martincouzins;
Meg Peppin @OD_optimist;
Carien Meijer