I Don’t Hate HR

If you haven’t yet read Why We Hate HR, it’s time. The main points of the article are:

  • HR should help find the best hires
  • HR should nurture the stars
  • HR should foster a productive work environment

Keith Hammonds, the author, says

HR should be joined to business strategy at the hip.

Ahem. I disagree. All the things Hammonds says is in the purview of HR is not HR’s to perform or manage. All of the people stuff has to be the job of management, from the first level technical lead through senior management. There’s a reason why HR is a staff position. HR does not make products. HR does not deliver services. HR does not sell anything. HR can only enable those people who perform line positions.Which means I certainly don’t hate HR. But I don’t believe that HR can do the things Mr. Hammonds says they should do. I believe he’s missed the whole reason HR exists.

HR exists to keep the company out of court.

Look, someone’s gotta do it. And since much of the time managers don’t know what to do or how to do it (Esther and I try with Behind Closed Doors to show managers), HR has to be around to pick up the pieces.But when I say I don’t hate HR, I have an even more dangerous opinion: in too many organizations, HR is irrelevant. And that’s just plain wrong. HR is in a unique position to help managers and staff perform their jobs better. They could facilitate retrospectives and see where people need training. They could train hiring managers and teams how to hire. They could train people on how to provide feedback and coach. All of those interpersonal skills are difficult for technical people to learn and they are all necessary to learn. I suspect many technical people started off the way I did: I thought I was going to sit in front of a computer all day and not talk to anyone — after all, that’s what I did in college 🙂

So, yes, HR should be “joined to business strategy at the hip.” But I suspect my joining is quite different than Mr. Hammonds’  joining. I think HR should act like a service organization. HR should help hiring managers analyze the job and write a great job description. HR should help with recruiting, by realizing recruiting is different from benefits, and a recruiter recruits full time, and by suggesting to hiring managers alternative recruiting techniques. HR should train people in how to interview and how to create auditions. HR should make sure the processes to bring people on board quickly work and work well. And, HR should read Alfie Kohn’s Punished By Rewards and work on alternatives to yearly evaluations that make managers and employees nuts. So there’s a range of tactical to strategic work, all of which would make many HR groups I’ve met be much more useful to the organization.If you’re in HR, how relevant are you? Can you perform any of the tasks above? If not, why not? And if you’re already performing these tasks, bravo. You’re the kind of HR person we want and need more of.

4 Replies to “I Don’t Hate HR”

  1. HR at Bon Secor here in Richmond, Virginia is a FINE example of a good, close knit, STRONG gatekeeping organization. They are experts at gatekeeping for the company…Helps keep the costs low if you never hire anyone…
    Not only do they act snotty and give you a really hard time on the telephone, but unless you know the lady in charge of information systems, they just toss your resume in the garbage…I know, I was in the office when she threw five of them in the bin after opening her mail…

  2. In my more than 10yrs of employment, there are two primary factors which make good people leave – HR policies and bad manager.

  3. “HR exists to keep the company out of court.”
    Too true, too true. Would that we lived in a world where such wasn’t necessary…
    The best organizations I’ve worked with and for also incorporated talent development into HR; whether that should or should fall under their purvue is beyond me (I’m not an org-chart specialist), but it seemed to make a world of difference in how much the HR people enjoyed their work and how much the rest of the company regarded HR people as anything but a necessary evil. It could have been coincidental–the HR people in the non-talent-dev mode may have just been coincidentally also evil.

  4. Unfortunately for those in the HR realm, there is an over abundance of regulations and Sarbanes-Oxley processes to follow. Partnering up as a strategic partner is what most HR professional want. However, those in power do not easily take to this philosophy and mostly shrug off attempts. I myself find that understanding the business, meeting with line managers and looking at ways to save via an ROI help you get in the door.
    HR is there to help advance the company and retain quality people. Its’ up to you to convince management that you are serious and capable of doing so.

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