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You’ve probably all seen this quote meme as its been floating around for awhile.

Now let’s put aside the ‘hire for potential’ argument for a minute because absolutely in some circumstances it’s important, even essential to hire an amateur. They bring a new perspective and fresh eyes onto old practices.

Recently I saw this meme again and it got me thinking about the perception of the value of professional skills. Whether to hire, discard, outsource or insource is often the question.

Its important for a sustainable business to reflect on individual positions and ask if they are adding value. If someone else can do the job just as well without impact on the business, and they have the capacity then the perceived value of that job decreases. Interestingly, it’s still pretty rare to see an accountant or IT manager on the chopping block, but marketing and training…see you later… so where does the perceived value come from?

To analyse I’m going to look at a profession I know well, HR. We all know who they are and what they do, right? Probably not fully, but you’ve at least heard of them.

Sadly, I’ve noticed a number of Human Resources (HR) professionals on the wrong side of redundancy of recent times. I am pondering if this trend has started because of the perceived ‘value’ of HR by business. Also, I’m assuming performance is sound for the sake of this examination of value.

Before you read on, I need to declare that I’m unapologetically a one-eyed HR kid all the way. I love and adore my profession and without hesitation, think that good HR is essential for business. The other thing I need to declare is that I think that at times the HR profession is its own worst enemy in the war against perceived value.

The essential aspect of HR is that these are the people in the business who focus on the people in the business. When good HR is happening the workforce functions cohesively and smartly. There is evidence to show that good HR is important for sustainable business and profits.

Unfortunately many businesses and business bosses still don’t see it this way. Why is that?

One reason is that many Human Resources professionals have failed to transition convincingly into the strategic partnership role that is highly beneficial for business, and have stayed as administrators. This may be because of competency or it may be because of the demands of their business. Regardless of the reason, if HR is administering processes and following procedure, and that’s it… well, anyone can do this and probably do it cheaper than a HR manager…thus redundancy.

Not demonstrating one’s essential and unique value to a business is devastating for any profession. Not feeling they are allowed to because of a perception of value, is devastating for the individual.

Think about the perceived value of products for a moment. “You get what you pay for.” Usually this is said sarcastically because you’ve purchased something off eBay that looks like a more expensive product and it fails. The product may function the same as the more expensive or genuine product but this time it fails. The problem is, it’s still good but its perceived value is considerably less. Why?

Think Thermomix. I’m assuming you know about Thermomix. If not, and you’ve been living in a cave, Thermomix is a high end kitchen appliance that pretty much does everything in the kitchen other than wash your dishes for you. This product is $2000. Whether it’s worth the $2000, well that’s up to the purchaser. They have no problems selling them so apparently its value is perceived by the public. There are plenty of cheaper versions on the market that do relatively the same thing that the Thermo does, so why hasn’t that impacted the sale of Thermo?

Perceived value.

People believe that Thermo is the superior product, therefore it’s the superior product…

I’m sure that this belief originally started because it was unique, it followed through with what it promised, it had good functionality, and it demonstrated its ability to add value to a persons life…who doesn’t want frozen margaritas and risotto on demand? However now you ask people why they want one its rarely has to do with its functionality and more to do with the fact that everyone talks about how ‘amazing’ they are.

I think we can learn a lot from the success of items like Thermomix to shift the perception of professional value in business…

In a professional skills setting, Accounting and IT are often seen as complex functions (i.e.: unique). The technical jargon that goes along with them is often confusing. So the perception of value for people that can understand this world and speak the language is high (i.e.: follow through and functionality). And rightly so. If you are adding unique value to business that no one else provides then Woo and Hoo you’re on the right side of keeping your job and doing the right thing for your company.

If you are doing a job that anyone can do…then the value decreases.

When I look at the Human Resources profession I see all of these aspects of a good and valuable ‘product’. They have a unique skill set, they navigate complexity, they follow through with good functionality….but have they demonstrated the capacity to add unique value to someone’s life (someone being the business bosses of course). This is where this historical origins of HR have let us down. HR left the personnel department about 30 years ago…unfortunately the perception of HR, and some people in HR, did not.

I’ve worked as a strategic HR professional for most of my HR career. This means that I come up with workforce strategies that align directly to the long term goals and operational outcomes of the particular business I’m working for at the time. However when I introduce myself at a party and say I’m HR I’m bombarded with questions about people’s resumes, contracts or payroll concerns. When I explain that’s not what I do in my role they look at me confused and state “but aren’t you HR?”. Well that’s if they don’t tell me that they hate HR and walk away of course.

Sigh…. I think we need a new PR team!

As HR professionals we need to be working hard to show our unique value to our business. When we show value we are valued. Our businesses perception of value will change as more and more highly skilled HR professionals stop doing the paperwork and start enabling the growth and success of the business.

Great Administration Officers are absolute gold in a business so allow them to demonstrate their unique value and do the administration while HR demonstrates their unique value and initiates culture change. We should all contribute the skills and gifts that we have to contribute instead of doing someone else’s job just because that’s what’s ‘needed’ at the time.

I have a pollyanna approach to life so I know we can change perceived value. And I’m a realist so I know takes time, blood, sweat and tears.

If your business isn’t valuing your profession, perhaps it’s time to change that. It starts with each of us taking a stand and demonstrating the unique value of our profession.

Let’s stop doing each other’s jobs and accept the unique skills and gifts that we have to give are valuable.

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