Sunday, 1 March 2015


In HR and L&D, it seems to me that we often spend time reflecting, navel gazing, rejecting labels then thinking up new ones, bemoaning management fads then having to implement them or to teach others about them. Not many of us seem to like the term ‘Human Resources’, and some still use ‘Personnel’ (including our professional body, the CIPD, but maybe there is a long term plan to change the P to ‘People’?) ‘People Development’ is probably better as it incorporates the L&D aspect. But there again, many people still refer to ‘Training and Development’, or just ‘Training’. And as for ‘Organisational Development’, well I have been told more than once that lots of people don’t really know what this is… which I have also seen to be so, but that’s another blog, maybe.

Having spent so many years recently involved in major organisational change, I have had so many discussions about what good HR and L&D do, and indeed the entire corporate function. I have also made a bit of a name for myself with colleagues about my hatred of the term ‘back office’ and blogged about why. Basic needs, security needs and the ‘back office’. During this kind of mega change, I have often experienced a sense that everyone perceives that other departments are safer, better off, more in the know etc. than they are. Especially HR.

Yet, in HR and other corporate functions it is often us doing a lot of the transactional work and due diligence required, yet knowing that, as usual, the main efficiencies will be looked for by streamlining the corporate function.

So, in a way who can blame me, and others for asking why we are there, and indeed why some form of our function should remain in place after the restructure? A word I often use is 'enablement'. Our policies, processes, frameworks, HRIS, L&D offer etc. should all enable the business to be efficient and the ‘front line’ staff to do their jobs skilfully, and ever more innovatively. There is no place for a corporate service that disables delivery.

So I am pondering today, on whether the word ‘enable’ or ‘enablement’ could be used to describe our HR and L&D functions, if not our entire corporate functions. The possibilities are quite promising, and, on a lighter note, great for acronym lovers:

Business Enablement

BE (I quite like this – enable everyone ‘to be’ themselves at work?)

Enablement Team
ET (maybe not, for obvious reasons!)

Business Enablement Team

BET (err, not politically correct re condoning gambling?)

Business Enablement Support Team
BEST (now we are cooking on gas)

Business Enablement Department
BED (no)

People Enablement Team

PET (like the name, but can imagine derogative use of acronym)

Back to some seriousness. I really do think we need to embrace the concept of enablement in wider HR, if we are not already – perhaps many of us are and we use different terminology? It is (in my opinion anyway) one of the essential components of a 'commercial' approach.  Internet searches tell me it is used a lot in sales, and in care and recovery, especially in relation to disability. Why not in how organisations think about and behave in relation to their people?

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