4 Signs a Company Doesn’t Value HR [Reader Question]

Hi all!

It’s been a minute. Working on a lot of fun stuff between the latest book, HR Summer School, regular livestream events, a ton of speaking at HR conferences and industry events, and so on. But I still get questions pretty regularly and love addressing them when I can (here’s the archive you can skim). Here’s one that came in recently:

I’m looking for my next HR job. At my last company I realized too late that they didn’t really care about what HR had to say. They had only hired me to check a box, and my opinions and ideas didn’t really matter. How do I find a company that really values HR input and practices?


Ouch. I think a lot of us in HR have had an experience where we got surprised by something like this, even though we’re often the ones who have our radar up for leadership weirdness and other things that might make a workplace toxic or unsustainable.

That said, if you’re one of those leaders looking to make a change, here’s what I would recommend looking for or asking about in the evaluation process.

  1. What’s the HR to employee ratio? 1 to 50? 1 to 100 (which is often kicked around as an industry average)? 1 to 1,000? While it’s not an exact science, the more extreme the ratio, the more you can tell what the company expects from HR. 1:50 = high-touch HR. 1:1,000 = paper-pusher HR.
  2. If you can see the location, where does HR sit? Are you in the middle of the people, far removed from the people? This isn’t a deal breaker but it’s good to know if it jives with your expectations and preferences. HR CAN work remotely, but it can be challenging.
  3. What would be your first 5-10 priorities in the role? If everything they want you to focus on is compliance-oriented, then that’s telling. Handbook. Policies. Absenteeism. Related: they avoid or dodge discussions of more modern HR practices like stay interviews or technology. You are looking for relationship-building, establishing trust, etc. as priorities, not just getting a handbook hammered out ASAP.
  4. Ask about past investments, focus, and behavior. Past behavior is a predictor of future behavior overall from a trend perspective. If they haven’t invested in employee-centric things in the past, why now? What’s changed? Why do you have any reason to believe they will do differently next year than they did last year?

It’s hard to calculate this, but I’ve seen this to be true at many, many companies: if the HR department is consistently left out of important discussions, planning, or decision-making processes, this is a likely sign that the company does not value their contributions.

Best of luck to you, Jaded!