The “Dilbert” cartoon series is famous for its portrayal of HR in the form of Catbert, the Evil HR Director. While most HR professionals don’t delight in making employees miserable, HR is often seen as the watchdog of management, bogged down in bureaucracy, paperwork and a long list of “don’ts” just waiting to catch the unsuspecting employee. No one wants to be called into a meeting with the boss and find the HR Manager there as well. Not a good sign.
If you’ve ever worked for a company as an employee, you probably have a story or two about Human Resources. HR is supposed to be the customer service department for the employee, bridging the gap between management with its rules, policies and regulations and the employee who has to “walk the line,” so to speak, in order to move up the ladder or just stay employed. They make sure that employees are treated fairly according to the company policies and State and Federal law.
HR has a lot of power, too. After all, they are the ones who post jobs, do the interviewing, and in many cases, make the hiring decisions. Since resumes funnel through HR before they go to a hiring manager, they have the ultimate power of who gets the first glance by a hiring manager and a crack at a job.
An article in Forbes, “It’s Time for Companies to Fire Their Human Resources Departments,” tells the story of a group of economic researchers who did a study to find out if looking good could help a person find a job. According to the results, good looking men fared better than women. Seems that since 93 percent of HR professionals in the study were women (and single) they were on the lookout for good-looking men rather than attractive women who could be potential rivals. HR is supposed to be neutral, just looking for the best and brightest to fill those job vacancies, right?
True, there are some HR managers who have flaws or their own little quirks, but HR is a tough job. It’s sort of like being a dentist or a tax accountant. There are some procedures that are pleasant, like getting your teeth cleaned or a refund from Uncle Sam. But there are times when you just have to have a root canal or go through three years of back receipts to satisfy an audit. On the other hand, there are some dentists and tax accountants that can make the most difficult situation an almost pleasant experience. The same for HR. HR professionals can avoid getting a pink slip by considering the article's reasons why HR should get the boot:
- "They speak gibberish." Drop the acronyms and jargon. The article refers to a sort of Bingo game that employees could play during meetings, with cards filled with corporate buzzwords and phrases. When they hear a buzzword, they cross off a square. They'd yell “bingo” when they got five in a row. Do yourself a favor, and don't give employees an opportunity to play such game. Talk to people clearly and directly.
- "They revel in red tape." Its HR’s job to administer policy and make sure the company is in compliance with the masses of red tape in government compliance. But HR doesn’t have to add to it with a 200-page employee handbook and a five-page disciplinary action form requiring three levels of approvals.
- "They live in a bubble." Too much emphasis on “communications skills” and not enough on knowing how to run a business. HR has been struggling to get recognized as an important part of any company’s strategic planning meeting, but has long been seen as the soft, fluffy department bogged down in paperwork. If HR professionals want to be taken seriously, they need to show how they add value and improve the bottom line by coming to the table with data and solid numbers to back up recommendations.
Long seen as “overhead,” companies are outsourcing HR and, according to the article, saving up to 25 percent of their HR costs. There are a lot of HR functions that can be done electronically. But who will an employee go to when they get harassed by a manager or aren’t offered benefits when they are qualified? The HR department is a stabilizing, equalizing component in workplaces that can be hostile, unfair and stressful.
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