Human resource professionals missing in action

On too many occasions in recent years stories have surfaced of human resources professionals making little fuss about their organisations’ dubious practices.

Sometimes they’ve gone silent in the face of the use of child labour somewhere down the supply chain. Or it has been turning a blind eye to  excessive stress imposed on employees. Or most recently in the case of the BBC, apparently going along with excessive payments for redundancy.

When the HR professionals go missing in action they are ducking their ethical responsibilities and increasingly they are being called on them. A provocative new White Paper from Maynard Leigh Associates, examines the seemingly ever-expanding ethics agenda now facing human resource professionals.

No Hiding Place: HR and the new ethical agenda examines the impact of forces outside the control not only of HR professionals, but also beyond the control of organisations that are now driving this new agenda.

Andrew Leigh, author of the new report and author of the recently published book Ethical Leadership (Kogan Page, 2013) examines six different areas where HR can now expect to exercise both influence and impact in their organisations: strategic focus; business practices, performance management, reputations, expertise, and acting as an ethical guardian.

One of the most controversial areas identified in the White Paper is the assumption HR professionals should can act as moral or ethical guardians of their organisations.  In effect their role in this area is to help clarify and encourage the development of leader’s own ethical compass.

Andrew also identifies six ethical skills needed by HR professionals and which they may have to develop including: understanding the ethical dimension; techniques to involve stakeholders in ethical concern; and a personal and frequently expressed commitment to core values.

While the new ethical agenda may not be on every human resource department’s agenda, the White Paper suggests it soon will be.  This is because CEOs and senior leaders everywhere are increasingly having to wrestle with the issue and naturally want expert help.

The evidence suggests the majority of organisations believe they do not have the necessary level of expertise in critical areas, and there needs to be a dramatic increase in capability to influence the workforce and effect change for the future.

The White Paper can be read in full at: www.ethical-leadership.co.uk

Andrew Leigh is author of Ethical Leadership: Creating and Sustaining an Ethical Business Culture, (Kogan Page 2013)

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