Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ten Reasons HR Seems To Have An Image Problem

My response to Susan Popoolas' post about the image problem HR has is below the link. And yes, you can probably think of more reasons but most of them are covered broadly in these ten reasons.

The post can be found at this link:

There are a few points in which HR continues to maintain an image problem.

(1) Many employees only come into contact with HR during difficult situations-while unemployed, experiencing disciplinary problems, being fired or laid off, undergoing unhappy life changes etc.- sometimes HR can help and sometimes they have a role to play that won't feel like help to an employee. As in any profession, some practitioners have good interpersonal skills that allow them to do their jobs without angering or frustrating the employee further, and sometimes they don't. People are much more likely to speak out about the bad experiences they have than they are the good experiences.

(2) Because HR is often understaffed they tend to take shortcuts that look like efficiencies to them but come across as uncaring to others. And those people are experiencing difficult situations-so they are at an increased sensitivity to anyone perceived as contributing to that difficulty. For example-job seekers complain that HR never acknowledges applications and they also complain when they receive an automated acknowledgement that their application was received. They want a personal interaction and are unwilling to concede that the HR person may not be able to comply.

(3) HR professionals don't operate in a consistent fashion, so when people are interacting with them, it is quite literally a guessing game as to what all the *right* things to do are. Even seemingly simple things-like what to wear to an interview gets a rather diverse set of opinions that the poor applicant doesn't know who to believe.

(4) HR professionals make hiring screen out decisions that are often perceived as ridiculous (because they mostly are) as part of the "I have to eliminate people because we get so many applications" excuse. It is little wonder that people see HR as unable to understand the business or the jobs they are screening for when they eliminate people based on personal bias.

(5) HR professionals need to have respect for diversity and seeks ways to gain a global outlook-too many fail to do so.

(6) HR professionals should be required to have both education and work experience in fields outside of HR at some (or several) stages of their career. Some do and some don't.

(7) HR professionals work with humans for the most part. Humans are diverse, unpredictable, predictable, puzzling, amazing, awe inspiring, smart, silly, have good days, bad days and mediocre days. Including the humans that are HR professionals. But we deal with humans in difficult situations and they remember when we don't meet their specific needs in the way they want at the time- and say so to anyone who will listen. You need a teflon exterior to work in this field for any length of time.

(8) HR professionals need to be the best at collaboration and change resilience-but they don't tell you that in school and for the most part it requires learning from on the job experience and seeking knowledge and resources consistently.

(9) HR professionals are perceived to have either great power over ones career or no power at all. Take your pick because the perception is situational.

(10) HR professionals would benefit from remembering that regardless of how overwhelmed they are by their workload, no matter how many people have yelled, insulted, swore, threw things at you, threatened you, cried, blamed, done something perverted or disgusting to a colleague, that your role is to remain neutral and objective in the way in which you handle those situations and every other situation. That doesn't mean you have to take abuse-you absolutely must never let that continue. It does mean the decisions you make or the advice you give has to be objective, wear that teflon shield while decision making. You can vent privately, later.

It isn't easy. You will never get everything just right every time. Every successful leader will tell you the same thing.

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