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HR Services delivered as and when you need them

What exactly is HR?

This is a question I have been asked many times over the years – and none more so than the past two years having run my own company, Turnstone HR Consultancy.

For the uninitiated, HR stands for Human Resources and a quick look at the Oxford Online Dictionary states the definition as “the personnel of a business or organisation, regarded as a significant asset in terms of skills and abilities”. Likewise, a Human Resources Department is listed as “the department of a business or organisation that deals with the hiring, administration and training of staff”.

The key word for me in the first of those definitions is “personnel”. Often an HR Department will also be referred to as a Personnel Department. Over the years, however, I have held a clear view in terms of the difference between “personnel” and “HR”.

Back in the 1980s, I sat exams to become a member of what was then the Institute of Personnel Management – IPM. Nowadays, the same organisation has evolved into the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development – CIPD. Having been a member of the IPM/CIPD for almost 30 years now, it is encouraging to see that it has not adopted the phrase Human Resources in its title.

My “clear view” is quite simple and can be best explained by reference to the diagram below. The outer area is the law that governs our employment and management of people. This effectively sets the rules within which companies can employ its workers and these laws are created and set by the Government. In more recent times, however, many UK employment laws are being strengthened or succeeded by legislation imposed by the European Union.

Many of these laws are complex and need to be set or structured in practical terms that can be understood and related to by both companies and their employees. This then takes us to the middle ring of the diagram – marked HR for Human Resources. HR Departments, in essence, use the legislation to produce Contracts of Employment and Policies & Procedures that are then implemented to assist in the utilisation and management of the workforce.

In my simplistic view, HR Departments do not actually manage the workforce. This is done either by “Line Managers” with support from HR or, in my ideal world, by a Personnel Department. Personnel = People. This leads us to the core of the diagram – the management of people. In my view, this is where the real skill enters the game.

Every individual is, well, individual and by the very nature of that word, each individual will react and respond differently to any given set of circumstances. The skill is to be able to anticipate or, at least, react in the right way to an individual or group of individuals and to motivate the workforce to be productive on behalf of the company.

Over the years, I have always enjoyed the latter role through my career. I always ensured that my job title included the word ‘Personnel’ – Personnel Manager; Fleet Personnel Director – so that the distinction was clear that I was managing people and not setting policies.

It is interesting therefore that, having set up my own consultancy to provide outsourced support to businesses in respect of their employees, my company is called Turnstone HR Consultancy. All of a sudden I am not managing people directly but providing the legislative framework to enable business owners to manage their employees within the law in order to protect their businesses.

Turnstone also undertakes training and offers other techniques to assist clients in managing their staff but somehow Turnstone Personnel Consultancy doesn’t sound right, neither does it absolutely fit our profile.

In the next BiteSizeHR column, I will take this distinction a little further!

“There is evidence to suggest that good HR practice and people management in SMEs are key factors in strong business performance and can lead to increased productivity.”

- CIPD people Skills Project 2017


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Turnstone HR
3, Dane Avenue
Cumbria LA14 4JS

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