HR's collaborative nature shines through

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In her last leader column Katie Jacobs discusses collaboration, and the innovation it brings

Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. As with many of his ideals, Henry Ford’s words about collaboration still hit the nail on the head today. But working together is increasingly challenging: the world of work is bigger, more diverse and more complex than ever.

Collaboration – with people in your organisation, people outside of it, people different from yourself, people with conflicting priorities – is the difference between stasis and success. Our cover story in the May issue (out now in print and online later this month), explores five key collaboration challenges HR leaders will no doubt have encountered (and been frustrated by), and asks the experts how to overcome them.

It’s somewhat fitting that what is, sadly, my last issue of HR magazine is focused on collaboration and the innovation that it brings. Because in my almost-five years in this industry, the collaborative, open and sharing nature of HR leaders is one of the things that has shone through. Whether it’s sharing your stories with us in the magazine and online, giving back through speaking and debating at various events, or letting me annoy you with my views on the profession over a coffee, lunch or glass of wine (thanks for that, you know who you are), I have found HR to be the most welcoming and naturally collaborative of the industries I have covered as a journalist and editor.

As I have said many times, now is an exciting yet uncertain moment to be in HR. The challenges linked to Brexit, the increasing complexity of the gig economy, and the rising tide of populism and anti-establishment feeling across the UK, Europe and the world make it ever more so. Business and HR have an opportunity to grasp the nettle and reassess how organisations fit into our wider societies and communities.

One of the things I have so enjoyed about covering this area is that it truly matters. Most people have to work, or if they don’t work they have regular encounters with organisations. Anything we can do to make these encounters more positive, to make sure the sense of self that for many of us is so bound up with what we do, is worth striving for. HR can make a difference. It can make all of our working lives better, and that is why it’s been such a pleasure and a privilege to champion the great work so many of you do.

Seismic shifts – automation, changing demographics and sociopolitical shifts to name but a few – are changing the world of work. I do not believe HR has an automatic right to exist. If it cannot prove the value that it brings then there’s no reason why the ‘sexier’ parts can’t be subsumed into other functions (marketing taking over employer brand and finance owning human capital metrics for example), while advancements in artificial intelligence mean the administrative aspects of HR are undertaken by machines. This shouldn’t happen, because HR leaders should be the people experts who spend every day clearly showing and telling other business leaders just how much value investment in people can bring.

HR magazine has always been clear in its role of acting as a critical friend to the profession; championing great practice and innovation while provoking and challenging HR to do more, be better, and be braver. I hope under my stewardship we have achieved this aim. And I am sure that Jenny Roper, HR magazine’s deputy editor, who will be taking over as editor from the next issue, will continue to push this agenda. I wish her and the fantastic team I have been so fortunate to work with all the best.

As for me, I am moving on to edit a magazine brand in a different area – supply chain. Like HR it’s not sector-specific, crosses the whole of the business and, given the strong link to sustainability and human rights, can make a positive difference to the wider world, allowing me to maintain my links to responsible business and CSR – an area I have long been passionate about.

Although I’m moving on I will continue to keep an interested eye on the world of HR, to watch how the profession continues to develop.

Thank you all so much for your support, challenge and engagement over the last few years. If you would like to keep in touch feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn (Katie Jacobs) or Twitter (@katie_jacobs).

My final message is this: remember that you have one of – if not the – most important roles in the organisation. Business success is all about people. And people need courageous, strategic and innovative HR.

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