It’s Time to Break HR-Who’s With Me?

Once you get into HR you’ll see. It sucks the life out of you and before long you’ll be like everyone else in HR–just hating your life and making it miserable for everyone else.

That conversation with a friend prior to me taking my first HR job has been forever burned into my brain. On that day I promised myself that I would never follow that path, instead charting a direction that brought a positive approach and results to the people I worked with (both inside and outside HR).

I think we know this, but it needs to be said. HR has a PR problem. Often times people see HR as a last resort when things are bad and all else has failed.

I see that as a failure on our part.

See, if we want the business to succeed, then we need to be an enabler of performance for the organization. Not in spite of the people, but through the people.

Ask your friends or your family that are outside the human resources world what they think of HR. This is a typical set of responses:

  • The police.
  • The “no” people.
  • The gatekeepers.
  • The people that fire everyone.

Do we have to police the organization at times? Yes. Do we have to say “no” sometimes? Yes. But those shouldn’t be the default responses so often that it characterizes who we are to the people we’re supposed to serve.

I have this crazy notion that HR is about service. Serving the business. Serving the employees. Just like you get great service at your favorite restaurant, I want to bring that same level of attention to HR. We might not be bringing you a fork or a glass of water, but we’re bringing you an employee experience that is inspiring, engaging, and enriching.

Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

How HR Can Ruin an Organization

Recently a friend told me about her experience with her boss. My friend is a forward-thinking HR pro with great ideas on how to drive innovation and serve the employees and hiring managers in her organization. Her boss, on the other hand, was much more interested in amassing power and creating artificial barriers for employees so that she remained in control of everything related to HR.

These are the people that give HR a bad name. How is that organization supposed to succeed when its top-level HR leader is putting things in place to prevent employee success?

My Approach

I knew these types of people were working in HR, and I have always taken it upon myself to break the stereotype whenever possible. I always present myself as approachable for employees and managers, and I always take a coaching or consultative approach–not a critical one.

I can remember multiple times over my career where employees would tell me that I wasn’t what they expected from the HR person, and I wear each of those statements with pride.

Maybe you can join me? I think we can break this stereotype of HR once and for all. The more each of us individually chip away at it, the more organizations and leadership teams will expect from their own HR talent, ultimately avoiding the “no” approach for something more engaging.

Think about your HR brand and what you want it to be. Then get about the business of making it a reality. If you need help, just reach out. I’ve been there and can definitely relate.

What is your philosophy/approach? Do you believe in this concept of HR service delivery? 

6 thoughts on “It’s Time to Break HR-Who’s With Me?

  1. Heather Kinzie

    Love love! Ben, you know me, I rarely hold back. I often find myself telling HR people who think their job is to create more friction than flow to “do us all a favor and resign now…we don’t need you.” We, as a profession, need to help more than hurt, offer more value than bureaucracy, and model more than lecture.

  2. Lara Norman

    I really love the write up Ben. I am of the opinion too that HR should be more of service delivery. Employees should be able to approach you on any matter (personal & official). Some of my colleagues actually call me FF (Friendly and Firm) and that always put a smile on my face.

  3. Christy Smith

    Great article!! That is so true – we are a support system for all of our employees. We need to help them when we can. Employees need to feel like they can come and get assistance when needed.

  4. Alex Bea

    Sometimes I wonder if a prerequisite for HR jobs should be an experience that demands empathy. Weather it’s being a restaurant server, working the cash register, or a greeting people as they enter a store, the ability to empathize with others goes a long way.

    It’s a shame that HR gets a bad rap sometimes, but hiring for empathy could help quite a few departments. The Ritz Carlton blog suggests that “The crucial components of empathy are simple awareness of and caring about others' emotional and mental states. Often when people are upset or in distress, simply acknowledging those feelings can make a difference.” (link here: Let’s empathize more and leave curmudgeons in the dust.

    Thanks for the great post!

  5. Ann Smith

    Thank you for this great post. I believe that in most instances my job is to listen, coach and mentor employees and at times management. I believe its also our job to keep management apprised on the pulse of the employees. The big “however” comes when upper management considers this behavior to be too sympathetic toward employees because its too difficult to face the real issues. Then when employees see no change in their environment employees turn and blame HR as being too “corporate”.

  6. Pingback: The Importance Of Empathy In HR | Blogging4Jobs

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