Category Archives: General HR

HR departments: I’ve never really understood the point of them

Oh my goodness. I’m sitting there yesterday, on the NSW public holiday watching Dr Phil (episode on obsession and yes I’m a huge Dr Phil fan lol!) when I see this article on twitter (care of @aarondodd).

Yep- it’s called ‘Human resources departments: I’ve never understood the point of them’ and it’s written by Sathnam Sanghera from The Times.

First he says that he knows what HR people do and describes HR as people “who ensure that companies adhere to minimum wage requirements, rules relating to diversity, gender, sexual orientation and so on and generally try to prevent businesses being sued to death”.

Er… so making sure people get paid what they are entitled to, and that they get to work in a safe environment which is free from discrimination is pointless? And trying to protect the company from massive financial loss and damage to brand and reputation isn’t worthwhile?

Sathnam- you are right. By your own admissions you haven’t actually dealt with HR so I guess that’s why you have no idea what you are talking about. Whilst the basic provisions you mentioned above, are some of the things that HR does, much of the strategic work HR undertakes is behind closed doors or not privy to all employees. I’m unsure as to why you would make these comments about what HR does, if you don’t actually know.

head in sand

The reason why we need to track business metrics to prove our value in a similar way to finance, sales and marketing is because we have to work with numb skulls like yourself who are too self-righteous to make the connection that people are people at work- and if you don’t manage them in an effective way and ensure maximum employee engagement- then this will most certainly have an impact on your bottom line. There are truckloads of research which connect the strategic initiatives of Human Resources to improvements in overall business effectiveness and profits. Perhaps you should read some?

With regards to the various names for HR that you mentioned- it’s clear you don’t understand what these terms mean or refer to. Many of the terms you mentioned would be specialist teams that fall under the broader divisional name of human resources. For instance you may have a team/section that just looks after organisational development. HR is a multi-faceted field of work that requires both generalists and specialists in particular fields to make a great organisation what it is. Again, this is HR being strategic for the good of the organisation as a whole. Yep- that’s our way of looking at the bigger picture and planning ahead.

It’s funny you mention the amount of flack that HR attracts. I know this to be true from my own personal experience and a good friend said to me the other day; “Jess, what does HR actually do strategically? And I promise I’m not being smart”.

I explained that in my role as an advisor, I work on strategic projects for example that help to ensure that we attract and retain talented women in an industry which is dominated by men, and that we plan for successors in our business critical roles in the instance that someone leaves us or retires. Obviously there is a lot more than this but its one of the first things I think when someone asks me that question.

The conversation we then had continued on as to why HR has a bad name as Sathnam suggests. I think that HR at times has a bad name, because admittedly there are some horror HR stories getting around. At the same time I don’t think our clients know what we are there to do and the expectation levels are wrong.

Recently I was told by a client that I was incompetent because I didn’t know that his manager was away sick. He then proceeded to tell me that as a personnel manager- I looked after everything to do with people. Now this is a perspective held by very few of my clients but at the same time, it made me realise he had no idea what I actually did.

So with the idea of working with things within our control and not stressing about things that aren’t- could HR be promoting what it does in a more effective manner? Or are we trying to promote ourselves or our value too much and that’s why we are being met with negative attitudes?

Keen to hear your thoughts on this.



Filed under General HR