Hi, it’s an HR Woman of a Certain Age again giving you my perspective on issues relating to the HR profession, with a tinge of humor.
Over the years, HR has changed for the better in some aspects and stayed the same in others. There are so many areas that as an HR professional with over 20 years (actually 30…but who’s counting), in the business, I have seen experienced, expertise-laden, Human Resources leaders gain stronger credibility, professional strength and organizational influence. Many of us are seen as impactful, strategic business partners who are critical to the executive management of the organization as a whole. However, this is not routinely the case and as such, I have a bone to pick. Yes, I found a bone with quite a bit of meat on it that requires picking.
Let me start the “pick” by saying that HR Management is a PROFESSION. It is not something that is just done. It is on the same caliber as other professionals who have undergone specialized training and gained experience in their fields of choice. We have our own societies, professional groups and certifications that help keep us engaged, entwined, enlightened, envisioned and enveloped in the many facets of the field. As professionals, we trudge through the labyrinths of the organizational halls providing the expertise necessary to carry out the business of human resources management in a manner that adds value, legitimacy and strategic acumen to the entire organization. We are able to do this because we have gained the education, training, experience and specialized knowledge required for our profession. We didn’t just fall off the HR truck (similar to idiom “falling off turnip truck”) and begin our practice.
My question then becomes, why do companies feel that we are interchangeable with other professions or just general people lacking any knowledge or experience in the profession? Would a company hire an accountant to handle their legal work? What about a marketer to head up the legal department? Would a company put someone who has no experience in business at all as their CEO? No. However, many companies feel it is fair, just and okay to put anyone who can barely conduct an interview as the leader of the Human Resources Department.
In my experience (vast as it has become), I have encountered situations where the head of human resources was someone who had no….count it….no experience, training or education in the field. Not only did they lack the prerequisite knowledge of regulatory requirements or best practices in people management, they had no expertise in basic HR acumen. However, this individual was given the power to conduct critical interviews, handle employee relations issues, develop organizational policy, engage in conflict management matters, etc. Yes, it was horribly, haphazardly and in many instances that I witnessed (or was intimately involved in), illegally carried out.
Unfortunately, some (hopefully not many organizations) consider HR as a “throwaway” part of the business and anyone with a smile, the employee handbook and willingness to do the job is considered fit to handle the intricate, delicate and legally sensitive business of running their human resources department. Organizations such as this are therefore, in many instances, infected with litigation and poor morale and riddled with distrust of management and employee lack of respect for the organization as a whole. The business leaders then scratch their cumulative heads in wonder. Why is this happening to us? I say, check out who you have running your HR Department and what role you allow them to play in the people management of the organization as a whole. Do they have prior experience as a strong HR leader? Are they fair, just and objective? Do you allow them to be? Do they have the expertise necessary to be a strategic partner that can offer insight in people management areas of potential organizational liability and exposure? Can they provide you current best practice options? Do they even know what “best practices” are? Most importantly, do you provide them the opportunity to express and implement “best practices”, i.e., are they an integral part of your executive management team?
Business leaders, do not fool yourselves. HR is a profession just like accounting, marketing, legal, etc. If you want HR….get a true HR professional and not a poor facsimile.
Note: no names were mentioned to protect the guilty!
About the Author: Jacqueline Clay is a freelance HR business consultant working with small and midsize organizations to assist them in meeting the challenging responsibilities associated with the full realm of HR management. With over 20 years leadership experience in all aspects of the HR business, she has helped organizations in a myriad of areas, including on boarding, labor/employee relations, policy and procedure development, organizational effectiveness, coaching and training. She holds a BA in Psychology from Fordham University.