The TCM Group’s recent HR Consultancy of the Year win at the Personnel Today awards reflects a shift towards a ‘human-shaped workforce,’ to which HR must respond, argues CEO David Liddle

“In 2021, HR has the potential to become one of the most important functions in the modern business,” comments David Liddle, Founder and CEO of The TCM Group, which was named HR Consultancy of the Year at the Personnel Today Awards on 26 November 2020.

“The future of work is human. Speak to any HR person and they absolutely understand this. However, there is a collective blind spot to how risk-averse the HR function has become, and how constrained it is by formal processes. To get back to its primary purpose, which is unlocking the brilliance of people, HR must cut the cord of risk.”

Award win reflects industry shift

The fact that the TCM Group fought off tough competition to win the HR Consultancy of the Year award, is something David Liddle believes reflects a shift within organisations towards people-centred and values-based cultures and practices. He comments:

“At TCM we have spent 20 years quietly revolutionising the world of HR, driving the agenda that the function must move from complex formal processes – particularly when it comes to tackling bullying, managing discipline and resolving grievances.

“When we first started out, a lot of people rolled their eyes when we entered conferences or boardrooms. They did not subscribe to open-dialogue or compassionate problem-solving in the cut-throat world of tough business.  In contrast, in 2020 people sit up and listen when we talk about values, culture transformation, compassion and dialogue. Not only are organisations clamouring to get on board, but we are winning awards.

“This award win is not just a testament to the fact that our messages and our services have credibility, but also a signal to the HR industry that it needs to step up in 2021 to change with the tide.

“Some 30 years ago, the UK saw the emergence of rigid disciplinary and grievance procedures coupled with a beefed-up employment tribunal system. This inexorably led to a much greater level of risk aversion across the HR profession. The formalisation of rules and procedures has led to an indoctrination of the HR function as the custodians of cumbersome, bureaucratic, complex, divisive and damaging processes. Many HR departments primary focus has been on creating and applying these policies and procedures, rather than focusing on unlocking the intrinsic value that their people bring to the organisation.

“The good news is that, over recent years, we have seen a massive shift in focus. The old ways have gradually been swept away, with HR beginning to return to its original purpose of driving people and culture. COVID has rapidly accelerated this, as companies have seen that employees have still been productive and loyal, despite working remotely and flexibly, often under extreme pressure.”

HR can shine in 2021

David Liddle continues:

“HR needs to take heed. For a long time now at TCM we have been calling out the fact that formal policy frameworks act as a form of control on the workforce. The traditional HR policy framework is a direct driver of stress, harm, fear, and dysfunction. The policy framework impedes creativity, it undermines individual and organisational performance, it destroys trust, and it diminishes the value of the entire HR function. Not to mention the time and the cost spent administering it. Time and money that would be better spent responding to the challenges of Covid-19, Brexit, and the worsening climate emergency.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. If HR could trust their workforce a bit more; if they could make the company values a golden thread that runs through their entire organisation; if they could empower leaders and managers to have better quality conversations; and if they could embrace coaching, mentoring and early dispute resolution, the need for extensive policy documents will be significantly reduced. You may ask: if I release my grip on control, is the sky going to come crashing down? The answer, simply put, is no it isn’t.”

“This is why the team at TCM have been on a mission to offer HR alternatives through conflict resolution training, coaching and mediation. We have been instrumental in the development of HR and management systems which promote dialogue and compassion, and ultimately deliver higher performance. This includes our Resolution Framework™, which is now being adopted widely in companies across all industries to replace their traditional discipline and grievance procedures.”

“2021 can be HR’s year to shine. However, this can only be done if organisations are willing to take risks and remove bureaucratic barriers themselves. Crucially, the entire HR profession must be the driving force behind this change.”

David Liddle, CEO and Founder of The TCM Group