why-we-shouldnt-hate-hr-on-hrexaminer-210pxPretty much every HR professional I know has read, and likely has on a target with a dozen darts in it, the infamous Fast Company magazine issue with the cover story, Why We Hate HR. Published five years ago, the cover image alone is still vividly burned into my head. Pink skin tone cartoon gal with black hair and a red dress, angry as can be and holding an innocent little rabbit upside-down by one leg… hazy, bluish backdrop… I just can’t forget it.

Fast forward five years after the article was written… John Sumser revisited the issue a few weeks back. And me? I’m still angry about the original piece although I’m no longer stewing over it. My mantra has become to forget about the haters and to do a better job of promoting the good in HR – through the execution of my own work, and through my blogging and public speaking. Do good, then promote it. And certainly there will continue to be a lot of mediocrity within HR, there may always be, but rather than get frustrated by it, I have also become more selective about my HR roles and deliberate in surrounding myself with high caliber HR colleagues.

Five years later for the author of the article? He actually took a look back at what he wrote recently. In revisiting the issue, he writes —

“The real problem is that too many organizations aren’t as demanding, as rigorous, as creative about the human element in business as they are about finance, marketing, and R&D. If companies and their CEOs aren’t serious about the people side of their organizations, how can we expect HR people in those organizations to play as a serious a role as we (and they) want them to play?”

Interesting, no?

Now I’m not one to deny that there are reasons to hate HR – there are reasons why even I hate HR and HR pros. That original article struck a nerve with me and many others because there was so much that was true. (And isn’t the truth so very ugly?) But when you dig deeper and get at the root of the problem, it’s actually an issue of how serious an organization’s leadership is about their people. Brilliant.

So just how do you know if a company takes the people side of their organizations seriously? And how do you know if they treat their HR function seriously?

When I think back to being on the market as an HR pro a few years back, I deliberately set out to find not only a good role for me career wise, but a team and organization that took the people side of their organization seriously. It’s no wonder that I ended up at a professional services firm where the focus of course is strongly on its people. I only got to know this however by endlessly asking questions in my interviews – which in some ways, might be a good roadmap for HR pros feeling their way into an organization that truly gets it. So what to ask?

  • How is the HR team perceived? What makes them credible?
  • Tell me about the HR and recruiting budget.
  • Tell me about the HR team and its size.  Who does the chief HR person report to?
  • What’s the background of the head of HR for the organization?
  • Tell me about the relationships the HR team has with managers. Line staff? The leadership team.

And then of course part of the equation was who was involved in the hiring process for a new HR team members. In order to pass muster and get hired into the role I have today, I had to meet with four senior executives outside of the HR team who now are my internal clients. I needed their buy in because the HR function in my organization is that vital.

You can learn a lot by asking a lot of questions. And great HR pros can take a stand by being choosier about where they go and who they surround themselves by. Bad HR and organizations who don’t take HR seriously will always exist – but you don’t have to make the situation worse by settling for an organization like that. The execution of great HR is what makes all the difference – so why not find a place where you can do just that?

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