The Human Resources team faces a lot of negativity. It’s time to set a few things straight.
A Google search for ‘why people dislike Human Resources (HR)” turned up more than 24 million results (in .36 seconds)! Each one offered solutions and ‘advice’ as to what HR needs to do about it. Don’t bother opening every link because the perceptions keep recurring:
- CEO’s chamcha (kowtower): Blindly doing their ‘master’s’ bidding with no opinion, or stand of their own. Management spies who snoop around eavesdropping, gathering ‘stuff’ on dissenters. Walking around with fake smiles.
- Fixated bureaucrats: They place policies between, instead of behind, every discussion. Unyielding, they’re a problem for every solution.
- Low business understanding: Shallow understanding of how business units run. Consequently they’re unable to meet talent acquisition and employee engagement needs.
- Doomsday omens: An HR person visible on the floor means someone – or everyone – is in trouble! Expect policies to get tighter, entitlements reduced, whatever. Things aren’t going to get any better!
- Techno-idiots stuck in the 1980s: Paper tigers working with archaic, manual, error-prone processes. There’s so much technology around, why can’t HR upgrade?
While there may be truth in these perceptions, they’re only one-side of the story. Worse, there is very little rebuttal from the HR fraternity to set the record straight! So, point-by-point, this is it:
- The CEO is usually the HR person’s boss. The difference between this boss and any other, is that the CEO is the ultimate power center in the organization! In reality, HR people do push back and caution about people-unfriendly initiatives – with all the right reasons. Only to get beaten into submission by budgetary constraints, time constraints, policy constraints… Would you, as a business unit leader, risk your career saying ‘no’ to the CEO? My guess is that when she says ‘jump’, you’ll ask ‘how high?’
- HR doesn’t dictate company policy – the management team does. However, HR is responsible for compliance. Considering that the law and indeed internal policy – is often so open to interpretation, little wonder that letter rules over spirit! So with HR’s neck permanently on the line, is it fair to brand them bureaucratic?
- HR oversees a host of businesses. It’s unreasonable to expect them to understand everything. As tenures get shorter, this expectation will just have to go! Imagine the marketing person being handed a screwdriver and spanner and made to do a highly technical role at the factory…. That’s usually the kind of expectation everyone has from HR. Oh, and they also need to shine at it – as of yesterday! The moot question is how many business leaders fully understand their own businesses?
The elements of HR most visible to the employee population – hiring, engagement, appraisals, firing – are really driven by business leaders. HR plays the role of a coordinator or facilitator but ends up holding the can. The fall guys!
- Obviously! People are quick to make the connection. No one ever notices the HR person on the floor when the good stuff gets implemented. That’s because the CEO prefers to take credit for those! So, when major people-changes have to be made, HR has to play an active role to ensure that things happen in a sensitive and compliant manner. Let’s not kid ourselves; difficult measures like organizational restructuring and reengineering are far more visible than a new bonus policy or a new healthcare benefit. While the former will invariably leave a trail of dissatisfaction and bitterness, the latter is taken with a sense of entitlement! And since there’s no completely correct solution, it’s always easier to blame HR than to congratulate them…
- The HR Tech partnership has never been so strong! And it’s deepening by the day. Hiring, payroll, benefit management, employee engagement, appraisals – tech solutions have been implemented across the entire HR spectrum. The marketing-person-with-the-screwdriver analogy notwithstanding, HR Leaders have made significant efforts to understand technology and embrace it like never before. The big question is: Is the company leadership willing to make the investment?
This is a good time to reiterate that HR should be recognized and felicitated more for the strategic role they play in the leadership of an organization. Not so much for the more optical, operational work they also do.
Sure, there’s no doubt that there’s much that HR needs to do, to change prevailing perceptions. Better communication, more visibility, greater alignment with LOBs, transparency, and picking up some number-crunching skills won’t hurt either.
Being permanent public enemy No1 is painful! Anyone would be hurt. Yet, amidst the blaze of the abounding angst and hatred, the HR person still manages a smile.
Ample proof that Human Resources is actually human!