Back to reality

I am first and foremost an HR practitioner. That is the job that I’m employed to do, that I’ve trained to do and that I’ve fulfilled for the best part of two decades. Every day, every morning I get up and go in to work to practice my profession. The following day I come in and I see the results and the impact. I see it year after year. I was with my last company for nine years, I’ve been with my current company for over five years.

When we get things right, I get to see the results.
When things go wrong, I take responsibility.

That is the responsibility beholden on the practitioner to do what is organisationally sustainable, what is culturally achievable, to fulfill their mandate as an employee and as the temporary guardian of their remit.

As an outsider, you can talk. You can make proclamations. You can enthuse and criticise, propose and deny. You wake up and all that is left of the previous day’s noise are the final echoes reverberating around the empty stadium of your mind. You rarely see the results and never accept the failures.

Innovation, revolution, chaos and new agendas are so much easier when you only have responsibility for your self image.

If I have a wish for 2014, it is for an honest, open conversation, practitioner to practitioner, about how we can make the working lives of our employees better and at the same time improve the performance of our organisations. Without the guff and the noise of those that have no responsibility other than for themselves.

I want to hear about how we might incrementally improve things for real, not rip the rule book up in our dreams.

If you’re a practitioner I’m interested in what you’ve done, where you’ve done it, what you’ve learnt from it and what you would do differently. If you’ve got strong views but no evidence of achievement, my question to you is, why not? Why can’t you demonstrate what you believe? What are you doing to find an organisation where you can work, long term, to deliver that vision?

2014, let’s make it the year that the realists, the pragmatists, the grafters take back the agenda. Let’s make it the year that those who are delivering change, every day, lead the conversation.

Debate is helpful, ideas are good. And even better when they’re focused on delivery and grounded in reality. Let’s make this the year where we move the conversation back there.


  1. HRManNZ · January 6, 2014

    Great post to start the year. This is a hobby horse of mine and why I no longer attend HR conferences. Time for the meek to inherit the dearth.

    • interimity · January 9, 2014

      The meek shall inherit the ‘lack of’. Is that what you meant?

  2. ethicalcompanies · January 6, 2014

    It’d be nice to see 2014 become the year recruitment and HR gets it act together but I’m not holding my breath on this to be honest. Personally I think it’s going to be another year or two, when the dynamics of recruitment swing back a bit more in favour of candidates before we see any change.

  3. helenjamery · January 6, 2014

    I get your point Neil but I also think if you dream big you might achieve half of that dream when it reaches reality. If you don’t dream, how much will things really change?

  4. interimity · January 10, 2014

    I’m a bit bemused. Who are you getting at? Do you include interims and consultants for instance in the non-practitioners? Often they have gone solo because they have been frustrated by the lack of change within organisations they were employed by – change that they were motivated enough to try and push through in spite of apathy, poor performance, self-serving politics and downright hostility. But they believe in doing the right thing. So do it as an ‘outsider’ and take their passion and drive to their clients.

    I think, as Doug Shaw has already stated in his blog,, there is good and bad practice within and without organisations. To hear of good practice being put into effect is very welcome.

    HOWEVER, the caveat I would make is that it needs to be in the context of a better morality than we have seen for quite some time in HR practices. I have no interest in the most beautifully executed zero hours contracts policy (or unpaid/low paid internships, getting more than 48 hours a week out of people, sitting on huge profits whilst the minimum wage is the norm in the organisation and, most egregious of all, huge unwarranted pay packages for senior staff). HR has become the lackey of the CFO and CEO in many circumstances and not the trusted consigliere it should be.

    Good practice is only good (in my view and not the view of many others) if it is for the good of all, and not just for the good of the senior team. Good practice leads to longer term financial benefits for an organisation, which leads to benefits for the shareholders (if they are in it for the long haul) and, of course, better working lives. Our new HR mantra courtesy of the CIPD. Bring it on.

  5. Sean Trainor · January 11, 2014

    I know you are making sweeping, general statements Neil. And, as an “outsider” I’m not sure whether to take offence from your thoughts. But I won’t. You see it reminds me of Roosevelt’s famous “Citizenship In A Republic” speech delivered Paris in 1910

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    You don’t have to be in the organisation to be “in the arena” I am an “outsider” but I am also a realist, pragmatist, a practitioner, a grafter. I preach what I practice.

    When I get things right, I do get to see the results, and get referrals and recommendations. When I get things go wrong, I lose future earnings and reputation.

    I see more “cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat” inside than I do outside organisations.

    Innovation, revolution, chaos and new agendas are so much easier when you aren’t embroiled in corporate politics or don’t have to fight fellow practitioners to get time with the CEO to make proposals.

    So I’m with you. Let’s help the realists, the pragmatists, the grafters. Let’s help those in the arena take back the agenda. Let’s help them lead the conversation.

    Let’s make 2014 the year where we help the practitioner “who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again” have a voice and lift the lid on their great darings.

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