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Don't Give HR a Bad Name

One of the reasons I am passionate about working with HR managers and business owners is because I know that a lot of you are doing your best, despite the fact that HR has a rotten reputation when it comes to treating people fairly.

Sometimes the blame might just be given out of habit, and sometimes there is good justification.

During my somewhat late encounter with university, I studied strategic human resources management. It was absolutely fascinating and I loved it. I loved learning the theories and concepts of lots of clever people, and that learning perfectly complemented my work, namely successfully managing multi-cultural teams.

My social life was non-existent during those years, studying whilst still working full time, yet my enthusiasm spurred me on to apply for a very senior position in the organization where I was employed.

I knew that I wasn’t fully qualified (working with excel spreadsheets has never been one of my strengths), but I also knew that I was capable of learning new skills, and doing the job well.

The interview process went smoothly albeit slowly, and then came the ‘wait’. It so happened that I was travelling during this waiting period, but I had nonetheless expected to have a received an answer on my application, one way or the other, during my time away.

But there was no email, no text, and no telephone call.

On my first day back at work, during the morning senior management meeting, the name of the successful candidate for the position was announced, along with the date when they would start. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing – and was furious.

The excuses from HR were lame – they had wanted to tell me in person, they hadn’t known how to get hold of me … and the last nail in that particular coffin was receiving my ‘we regret to inform you’ letter, with a coffee stain in the top right hand corner.

HR involves serving others

There is no perfect way to work with people, because we’re all different. But it is vital to remember that we are human (over obvious?). And if you’re an HR Manager, whilst outcomes, staff engagement, productivity, profitability etc., have to be managed if you want to keep your job, you have to be able to put yourself in the shoes of those you serve.

You may not have even studied HR, and I’m not saying that it’s essential to learn all that theoretical stuff. In fact I believe that the only really effective way to be able to learn how to support and lead others is to spend lots of time working with them. So for those of you who find yourself in HR by accident because it’s what you enjoy doing, fantastic. Books are great, people are better.

Machines are boring

This morning I saw a brief article about the car industry, and about how many job losses there are likely to be in coming years – and it’s all down to technology.

You can programme a machine to carry out a specified number of actions in a specified number of hours, and if something goes wrong you simply twiddle a couple of screwdrivers and away you go again. Machines are predictable. Machines follow instructions.

Machines also won’t complain if you shut them down and replace them with a newer model – but if you’re in the process of restructuring and jobs are at stake, you’ll be dealing with a lot of emotion (yep, we’re back to that thing called emotional intelligence).

Leaving full time employment was one of the best things I ever did. I can now be openly passionate about what I do without fear of being fired.

There is too much back-stabbing and jealousy in companies and organizations, too much whining about what others are doing (or not) instead of individuals focusing on what they’re good at and doing it, and too much moaning about how a new colleague wasn’t qualified and shouldn’t have got the job.

It is a goal of mine to change the bad reputation that HR has given itself, to give managers and business owners the tools to get the very best out of their teams and themselves. And whilst I understand that HR has a tough job when it comes employment rights and all the other legal stuff, it doesn’t cancel out the obligation to support every single member of staff as best you can.

Don’t treat people like machines, because machines are boring (unless we’re talking about an Aston Martin Vulcan), and please stop giving HR a bad name.

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