Blog: Why we (continue to) hate HR? 


Why we (continue to) hate HR? 

The author documented his own research for 10 years post reading an article in 2006. The findings did surprise him.
Why we (continue to) hate HR? 

It was somewhere in mid-2006 is when I chanced upon the article by Keith Hammonds on “Why we hate HR”. 

I read it.  Though FB was yet at emerge, clicked the dislike button multiple times and dumped the article.

Setting the ground since 2006

Even when you brush something aside, it keeps cropping up and haunting you. This was one such article and I had a choice to either ignore or act upon. I decided to act upon but this ‘action’ was slightly different. My action strategy was two pronged: 

  1. Make changes to ways of working and secondly, 
  2. Gather evidences through a longitudinal study (aka prolonged one) to prove the findings incorrect

Fast forward to 2016

Here are my sample sizes over last 11 years and I viewed most of these through the lens of Keith:

  1. In last 12 years and through my leadership stints in various organizations, 32 professionals reported to me directly and I had the opportunity to work with more than 500 HR professionals as part of my extended teams across organizations.
  2. I visited more than 30 MBA institutions (some times visited the same institutes, more than once)
  3. Made campus presentations to more than 5700 management students (largely HR folks), answered their intriguing questions
  4. Interviewed more than 400 HR management students and hired a good number of them
  5. Spoke in over 50+ conferences across India as keynote speaker or as a panel member
  6. Met more than 4000 active HR professionals through these conferences


Over last two weeks, I sat back and went through all my notes over last 12 years of what I have seen, observed, talked about, listened to, worked upon and read about. Folks who worked with me may recollect that I write a lot. 

I am disappointed. I am hurt. Keith continues to remain right. We will continue to Hate HR.

HR start-ups and their focus

Last few years have been glorious period for the start-up sector and there are quite a few wonderful start-ups emerging in the space of HR technology. I spent some time on understanding HR tech start-up space.

CB Insight says that the largest contributors in this space are start-ups in “recruiting tools” space. Closely followed by job search, operations management and benefits administration. I am sure you will agree that these will fall in process category. 

Tracxn Blue box on HR tech start-up talks about how majority of funding has happened in HRMS, candidate sourcing, background verification, candidate assistance and corporate training. These are processes.

Start-ups solve problems and most HR tech start-ups are solving for process challenges. World somehow believes that our biggest challenge lies in process automation. I think we made the world think so and it’s not the other way around. 

We are packaging experts!

An easy way to understand what new is happening in any field is to attend conferences and seminars. A look back at the theme of these conferences tells us that we have improved on package and not on content. I leave it to you. See for yourselves. Just Google “HR conference” and read through 2nd & 3rd pages (don’t stop at first page: It’s the package)

“HR said that”

I am sure you have heard that. It’s never been a case when someone walks out of a meeting with an engineering counterpart or a marketing counterpart. All employees, colleagues, peers are referred with their first names (some companies follow ‘sirs’ and ‘madams’). It’s only the case with us. Invariably, every employee calls, refers, sights and reiterates and finds us as ‘HR’ and not by our name! Why?

Because we never put them at the center of any solution and we always preferred processes to our very own employees.

We love waterfall

Other functions & teams embrace technology at the drop of a hat. Just look at every function around us. They have moved from one technology to the other and to the other. And what have we done?

We have adopted technology and its solutions to solve our process. True that our budgets get done once and not many employers are keen on investing in HR. We get our budgets once and that’s it. And this is a good excuse too. We have made choices to solve our problems and not employee’s problems. Isn’t it true?

While jumping a queue is not a sin in few parts of the world (including ours), is it possible for even one employee to side step a process? Have you ever allowed it? Don’t bother about answering. I know the answer. We are just in love with waterfall and we would stick our neck out to ensure that everyone has to follow 1,2,3 and then 4.

We fight for our rights and our right is to party!

We fight hard and we never give up but we fight only for a very interesting cause and it’s not about right to education. It’s about fighting to ensure that our respective org spends enough on employee entertainment.  We have mastered the art of entertaining employees and all our expenses including energy are channelized in organizing events, parties, team off-sites and leadership retreats. 

But wait. It’s not over. Any event completes the cycle only when we take a pic and post them on social media. Every like, feels like, people like HR.

Our leaders hate us

Just sit back and think about the last few conversations your reporting manager had with you. Make a list of top 3 discussion pointers. Compare them with the below list. 

  1. Speed up hiring
  2. HR budget
  3. Retain top talent
  4. Improve our PMS process
  5. Improve employee morale
  6. Have a (perceived) better vacation policy

Now, do another list. Just think about the last 3 things you discussed with your reporting manager.  Make a list and compare.

  1. Detailed report on recently concluded training program
  2. Attrition report and measures taken
  3. How are we ranked in recent surveys, internal or external
  4. Employee concerns and or happier moments
  5. New training program you have identified
  6. New tools, systems, processes that you are planning to roll out

Don’t get me wrong. All of the above are critical, important and very much needed to run an organization. But, we have been doing only the above and over the years we also conditioned our leaders to talk only about the above.  Most of them don’t know how we can add some sense to business. It’s not their fault. We have given a plate to them and we have only given the same plate & same ingredients over the last several years.

Season’s greetings

Wow, the very thought of performance review time frame sends shivers to employees, nightmare to managers, haunted experience to budgeters and wedding planning sense to us. Has anyone done performance reviews in less than 15 days for entire organization? Have we ever thought about how that poor employee has kept out of sight through the entire process yet the process is all about that employee?

Let’s make others love HR for right reasons

I am neither worried nor frustrated but I am only concerned. I think I have a solution to make our life and our profession better. The solution is simple and fundamental. We don’t have to go back to basics but we need to create basics. Read on!

  1. Stop doing the unnecessary and stop chasing those
  2. Move away from your loved creations
  3. Do a start-up within your org
  4. Be an investor
  5. Believe in God, for everything else go for data
  6. There is more to life than Microsoft tools
  7. Let’s play with simple English

Stop doing  & chasing the unnecessary: we don’t need a seat at the table. We need to do things, which add value to everyone and not just to us. Let’s start with rebranding ourselves, mentally. 

Move away from the loved ones: Well, I am certainly not advising to move away from your loved ones. We have loved the processes and policies which we have created in the past; let’s move away 

Do a start-up within your org: Ask this question – “How can we do something from scratch?” rather than “how can I improve the current one?”. we don’t know everything and we don’t have to pretend to know all. Let’s go out and start learning more. Let’s also practice “I don’t know”

Be an investor: Be an investor and invest on your employees and their ideas rather than on what you have created. If you are an investor, will you invest in the team, which works for you? Will you invest in the policies that you have created? You know what to do once you have ‘No’ as an answer

Believe in God, for everything else go for data: It’s going to be data all the way till we retire. We are sitting on huge piles of human data and let’s also work on data

There is more to life than Microsoft tools: let’s get away from making any more presentations since they only give the past. Let’s live in the present.

Language is to communicate: Let’s move away from all jargon in our lives, in our work life and in our HR playbooks. Let’s use English to communicate and not to prove our mastery.

Is the situation bleak? Yes. Is it too frustrating? Yes. Can it be changed? Yes. How does the change happen? Well, it starts with you and starts now

I believe this is a worthy resolution to take for coming new years! Let’s make our profession better, simpler and loveable one!

(This article is a personal expression/opinion piece of the author and not of People Matters)

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Topics: Watercooler

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