Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Human Resources (HR): What went wrong?

Q:How many HR officers does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Four. One to assess the risk of the light bulb changing process, another to consult the light bulb and its stakeholders, yet another to ensure that the health and safety procedures are being adhered to while the bulb is being changed, and a fourth to actually change it.

I need to start with a caveat. My beautiful wife is a HR Manager and is exceptional at her job. This article refers to all other HR folks out there :)

I recently advised a client on a new start-up business. I was talking about the org structure and told him that at the start-up stage not to worry about bringing in any HR personnel as they are a cost center and there would be little to no value add. On reflection I wondered if others agreed with my point of view not only about a start-up environment but also an established corporate environment.

So I did a little research and WOW some authors have not held back. Have a look at these articles:
Why everyone hates HR
The truth about the HR department
What if HR never becomes strategic?

and the grand daddy of them all (note: this article is 6 years old and has been constantly referred to in numerous articles and blogs)

Why we hate HR

There is even a PHD paper based on the above article:
Teaching Guide for “Why We Hate HR”

Finally an article about HR getting a "seat at the table" the readers comments do not hold anything back.

I am sure if I did a search on other professions / roles I would find similar articles, however I was surprised at the venom in some of the comments.

My own personal belief is that there are two sides to this story but that ultimately the execution of a solid HR strategy does not rest with the HR managers but with the CEO's who employ the function and weak managers who palm off responsibility. As blogger Suzanne Lucas at Evil HR Lady says "Why am I evil? Well, I'm not, but that's the perception of all of us in HR. Need to fire someone? Come to HR. Need to explain to someone why, even after working their rear end off all year, that their annual increase is 2.7%? Come to HR. Need to come up with new mountains of paperwork? Come to HR. So, come join me on the Evil Side."

Don't get me wrong. I have worked with a number of HR managers who could not run a bath let alone a business but to lump the whole profession in the "crap basket" is unfair. Owners, CEO etc have to take responsibility for the implementation of their corporate strategy and if part of that strategy is centered around people (i.e. the whole thing) then I suggest they shine the torch on their own inactions in the HR department. Allowing any department to become a haven for bureaucratic policing is a failure in executing the right strategy. As Einstein said, “Bureaucracy is the death of all sound work."

As for the start-up. I stand by my advice. Sorry HR but in a start-up environment I believe it is a cost the business cannot afford.


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