Why HR Sucks. And Why it Doesn't.

If you have read any of my posts before, then you might know I have a background as an HR professional.  When I left that profession to work at HRMarketer, I was burned out.  After laying off literally hundreds of people in the course of my career (no not all at once!), I felt emotionally drained.  As a result, I pigeonholed the profession.  It had begun to appear to me that HR wasn’t taken seriously, as a strategic force, and that individuals in the profession had a heaping pile of suck in their inbox.

There are a lot of jobs in HR - recruiting, generalist, benefits, admin, paper pusher, VP, strategic, training, compliance, etc., etc.  So it is hard to just put the entire profession into one bucket of "HR" and say it sucks.   Just like other disciplines - say marketing - there are administrative positions and there are more strategic positions. There are enjoyable tasks and tasks that are not so enjoyable.  And there are companies where HR may be taken seriously and there are companies where HR is a joke. It depends on both the company and the individual.

From the perspective that time has given me, I now realize that HR isn’t so bad.  But if you are going into HR to help people you will likely be disappointed. If that's your motivation, go work for hospice.  HR done right is serious business and greatly impacts an organization.  

So why does the profession face an ongoing battle for respect and recognition as a strategic player in an organization? 

I believe the reasons that the HR profession gets such a bad rap are:

(a) More so than any other department, people go into HR for all the wrong reasons. Or, companies put the wrong people into HR - again, because they don’t take the profession seriously. Whatever the case - garbage in, garbage out;

(b) A lot of what the HR department is tasked to do is, well, administrative and while it is important work (hey, someone has to manage payroll, open enrollment, attendance, benefits administration, etc.) it contributes little strategic value; 

(c) HR has to enforce rules and nobody likes those people. As this excellent article in the HR Examiner says, “Charged with risk mitigation in the areas of legal compliance and employment law, HR’s role includes things that seem pretty intrusive”.

All of these factors give HR a bad name and overshadow the strategic side of HR - the stuff that when done right has a dramatic impact on a business. Smart companies realize this.  HR is not a joke at world-class organizations like Johnson & Johnson, Google and General Electric.  HR becomes strategic when it helps the business grow and be successful. A big part of this is helping the organization allocate its most important asset – people.  This includes finding the right people to meet the needs of the business, putting them in the right positions, keeping them engaged, and developing their skills – today and in the future. 

And to do that right is really, really hard (and it doesn't suck). 

Post written by HRmarketer staff member, Dawn Passaro. Dawn has over 15 years experience as a human resources professional. Dawn's postings on this site are her own and don't necessarily represent the opinions of HRmarketer.

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