Human resources are a little like Rodney Dangerfield, in that they “don’t get any respect.” Why is that?
A company’s most valuable asset is people. Business professionals know that. Of course, human resources must understand that, especially since it is the basis of their existence. However, people-as-a-business-asset should be more general knowledge.
It certainly should be.
Why is it hard to convince some businesspeople and CEO’s that investing in people is more effective than investing in technology? For one, many simply think they do not have enough talent for a successful investment in people.
That belief is one reason why, in some companies, human resources has the least authoritative voice. It begs the question…
Why do people hate HR?
One reason might be that human resources departments often lack the revenue basis of other departments. No income means little power. Outsourcing some of the HR function demonstrates how companies see human resources functions. They are respected, but ultimately superfluous.
Some people say HR only exists for one reason, to prevent lawsuits. Left to focus on compliance, human resources departments are seen as little more than police, something that annoys just about everyone.
You can almost pity the poor employee who believes HR is “on their side.” They soon discover a hard truth: the primary purpose of HR is to protect the reputation and assets of the company; human resources answers only to the employer.
It is also no wonder why HR pros always seem frustrated. They have the task of protecting the most valuable asset of the company, so they know how effective they could be.
Human resources need to stay on top of an ever-changing employment and legal landscape, and are often asked to be way ahead of the departments they oversee. They need to be intimately aware of issues that will have a tremendous effect on the company while continually frustrated with the lack of authority to conduct real change.
Unfortunately, human resources are often forced to endure some of the worst parts of corporate life, enacting a constant stream of terminations. Their job is to make firings go smoothly, with desks and lockers cleared without incident.
It certainly doesn’t have to be that way.
There are innovative companies that support human resources seriously. They are mostly professional services firms with people as their only real asset. They have no choice but to be creative about human resources.
These companies could prove to be a real game changer. For some firms, no one can rise to the position of a senior partner without serving some time (at least a year) in a human resources capacity. They believe that leaders have to learn to manage the company’s most vital asset.
Everyone talks about the need for “soft skills.” Deal with a variety of disparate and conflicting employees, balancing the needs of the employee with business needs, can be an essential skill. Nobody in a leadership role will succeed without people skills.
A brief stint in human resources won’t transform an introvert into a strong people person, but could be enough to see the value of developing talent. Any boss with his or her salt is made to work in HR. It just might allow human resources to get the respect it deserves. Once HR issues are discussed in the boardroom, departments with large budgets can appreciate the importance of employees as human beings.
It could change everything. And people will stop hating human resources.
Why do you think everyone hates human resources? Join the conversation on the comments below.