Friday, May 22, 2009

The Problem with HR Professionals

In my last post, I mentioned that some HR departments aren't as helpful as others. I spent a large chunk of my corporate career in Human Resources and I've seen the good, the bad and the very ugly. I've also listened to many people talk about their HR departments and how ineffective they could be. From that, I've come up with my top 10 problems HR professionals have.

Now, my thoughts about the problems with HR are just that - MY THOUGHTS - so feel free to disagree. So let's get right to it:

Problem #1: They aren't objective.
HR has the unique role of being a management representative AND an employee advocate. The key to maintaining that balance is really not caring about who the people are on each side of the issue, but to focus on the policy, process or the solution to the issue. I call it "not having a dog in the fight".

Problem #2: They fire people.
The only people HR should fire are the employees that work for them. Managers fire their own employees - not HR. While HR should be there, it is that employee's supervisor that needs to manage their own staff - which means that if someone needs to be fired, the manager of that employee should do it.

Problem #3: They don't know how to terminate employees.
If a termination meeting takes more than 5 - 10 minutes, it's too long. It's not a discussion, it's a notification. If it gets messy - it's HR's fault. They should control the meeting.

Problem #4: They forget that perception is important.
Hanging out with employees, taking smoke breaks together, always laughing and joking with people outside of HR is not a bad thing, but if staff begin to feel you have favorites, they will doubt your ability to be objective.

Problem #5: They're afraid of conflict.
HR is all about conflict. Not necessarily "bad" conflict, but you can't be afraid to deal with issues head on, be assertive in your role, and advise people when they are on the wrong track (regardless of their position). You have to be able to have direct conversations with people about salaries, promotions (or denial of promotions), performance issues, and even the dreaded talk about body odor.

Problem #6: They want to be seen as strategic but are not qualified.
Does HR know how to read financials? Do they have a deep understanding of the strategic plan and how they can impact whether the implementation is a success or not? Have they seen the latest industry reports, annual report, or taken the time to truly understand operations? Can HR show metrics that support what they do and how they do it?

Problem #7: They care about losing their job.
The greatest attitude to have in HR (and maybe in any position) is not caring about whether you lose your job - that frees you up from trying to please certain people. If the CEO wants something, and you know that's not the best course of action, you can speak up. If a VP wants to fire someone and you know its premature, you can speak up. Never be afraid of losing your job for doing your job. And tell your boss that.

Problem #8: They don't invest in their education.
I'm not talking about workshops, certifications or seminars telling you how to recruit, conduct progressive discipline or write a handbook. I'm talking about business courses, negotiation strategies, mediation courses, communication classes, presentation skills programs, and the such. HR people are responsible for telling others how to manage, grow, develop, recognize, motivate, discipline and terminate employees. They should invest in the skills to do these things effectively.

Problem #9: They can't apply the education they have.
Having skills and being able to use them to do your job well and advance your career are two separate things.

Problem #10: They can't keep their mouth shut.
This is my biggest pet peeve of all. How does confidential information get out? How do people know the layoffs are coming? How do people know who makes what? How do people know what disciplinary action was taken against someone? How do people know about upcoming policy changes that management is not ready to announce yet? Now, granted, leaks can come from other places, but if you are in HR and you can't keep your mouth shut, ultimately you will lose the trust of your peers, company employees, and your superiors.

Well, that's it for now. Was I perfect in my HR career? Yes!

Just kidding!!!

I had my fair share of challenges and mistakes, but if you can conquer problems 1-10, you're well on your way to a rewarding career in HR where you impact the production, morale and the bottom line of the company you work for.

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