Do We Still Hate HR?

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In 2008, I was interviewing for an HR position and was asked by the VP of HR, “What are your thoughts on the Keith Hammonds article, Why We Hate HR?”. Luckily, a college professor had once assigned this as required reading, and I was able to babble off a few thoughts to counter Hammond’s viewpoints somewhat proficiently. Today, this blog forum is my opportunity to really answer the question I was asked years ago.

If you have not read the original article, it was written in 2005 and sarcastically claims that HR is NOT a strategic partner nor has a seat at “the table”. The article goes on to support those claims by speaking to four main points:

  • HR people are not the sharpest tacks in the box
  • HR pursues efficiency in lieu of value
  • HR isn’t working for you
  • The corner office doesn’t get HR (and vice versa)

Thirteen years later, I would respond that HR is now desired, necessary, and often sits at the head of “the table”. To Hammond’s first point, specialized Human Resource graduate and post-graduate degrees are no longer uncommon and are often combined with the pursuit of one or more HR certifications. An education in Human Resources is the general path for those seeking to enter the field and valued by organizations hiring within the field. A well-rounded Human Resources professional has the education, business acumen, and necessary soft skills to be a successful strategic partner.

While I mention soft skills above, analytical capabilities are also an asset to an HR professional and will counter Hammond’s second point. Many see HR as simply a “people” career; however, HR is a strongly data-driven field as well. A phrase I have said often is “the data will tell the story”. When developing or executing HR initiatives, it is imperative that HR uses data to support a recommendation and/or use data to tie back value to the initiative. Fortunately, in today’s tech-savvy world, there are many tools available to support HR metrics.

Third, Hammond says “HR isn’t working for you”, but in reality, HR works for all of us. HR is no longer just a bad cop, a good cop, making only financially driven decisions, or the person planning the Company picnic. Human Resources is a partner, a bridge, a sounding board, an innovator, a risk-taker, and a risk mitigator. We are often spread thin and asked to wear many hats, but we never lose sight of the fact that it is our job to protect both the Company and our people.

Finally, I hope to always see HR in the corner office strategizing with Sr. Leadership. I hope the phrase “Every manager is an HR manager” becomes common amongst organizations because we all play a role in supporting a successful people-centric organization. I hope HR continues to lead conversations at “the table” and is a strong, valued, strategic contributor to the conversations that ensue.