If I Could Change One Thing About HR…

My buddy Michael Carty over at Xpert HR asked me to participate in their “What I would Change About HR” blog series. I was happy to contribute my thoughts via the following post which was originally featured in their blog on September 13, 2010. When you have a second, check what some of the great HR thought leaders like Elaine Cohen, Gareth Jones, Stefanie Fontanez, Paul Smith, The HRD, Bill Boorman, David Shepherd, and others are suggesting we need to change about our beloved profession. And contribute to the dialog!

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Asking me to rant about what I would change in HR is like asking my daughter to tell me about her day at school. Your genuine interest in the response tends to wane after the first 10 minutes. I love my daughter to death, but she is not short on words.

Just because I have a lot to say about what HR needs to change doesn’t mean I’m all down-in-the-dumps about it. We have a lot of great stuff going for us and I’m proud to put myself out there as a banner waving member of the profession. But if I had to choose one thing…just one thing…it would be this…
We need to get a seat at the table.

No no no. Isn’t that just the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard? I mean it had its place, but come on already! I got news for you: If you’re not “at the table” yet, you’re never going to get there. Just give it up and get back to pushin’ that paper. Here’s what I really think needs changing.

We need to become more selective in who we allow into the profession.

Yep, that’s right. Some of you don’t belong here and you’re bringing the rest of us down. No (relevant) degree? Farewell. No fundamental understanding of accounting and finance? Adios. Incapable of standing in front of a room and giving a presentation? Tot ziens. Short on professional demeanor, board room presence and charisma? до свидания. Timid, shy, softspoken? Arrivederci. One dimensional? 再见. Uncomfortable with change and ambiguity? Au revoir. Never travelled more than 200 miles from your home? Beat it. Clock watcher? αντίο. Slow on the uptake? Bugger off

You get the picture. We’ve been around a long time and actually have a professional brand and identity more widely recognized than many. But the brand is synonymous with ‘mediocrity’ and that just kills me. We got junk in the trunk (boot) and we need to get rid of it…deliberately!

There is no better time, my friends, to upgrade the talent level of your HR team. There are so many great people on the streets right now – find them, bring them on, and relieve yourself of that dead weight that just sucks the life out of our collective reputation.

Hell, I’d argue they don’t even need experience in HR. They just need strong business acumen, an appreciation for people, agility in responding to the evolving needs of an organization, and a proven record of differentiating, adding value, and creating lasting experiences. If this notion makes you uncomfortable, I reckon you’re just some of that dead weight…

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6 Responses to If I Could Change One Thing About HR…
  1. Dan Walter
    September 17, 2010 | 12:57 pm

    This post probably won’t make you a ton of new friends, but it is absolutely on point.

    Congrats for saying publicly what most will only say in private.

  2. Charlie
    September 18, 2010 | 9:57 am

    @Dan – thanks for your comment; i hope we can all be more public in our thinking about the state of HR – it’s the only way we’ll ever make appreciable progress. a lot of the change we’ve seen over the last decade or so has been superficial…

  3. Richard Sherman
    September 18, 2010 | 11:35 am

    Nail on the head, Charlie, nicely done! It is an interesting thread running through much of what this topic has generated in one form or another. It also brings up the question that I remember discussing four or five years ago about whether the Generalist is a role that is either flawed by its nature or must only be taken on by the most talented and truly well rounded, and that specializing may allow those with some of the components missing from their toolkit to contribute their talents. All good stuff to launch into the universe and get some traction on. Thanks!

  4. Maggie Forrest
    September 20, 2010 | 4:16 am

    Charlie we work with a lot of different HR people at different levels in a number of different industries and I agree with all your points. But I would add one other – being comfortable with technology – whether its webinar technology for delivering e-learning and communication or with applications for talent management and succession planning. Just being comfortable with a spreadsheet doesn’t hack it any more.

  5. Dawn Passaro
    September 20, 2010 | 10:46 am

    I absolutely agree with your comments, and I have many many stories about some HR “Professionals” to support it. I also would like to add to your list: Small minded power-hungry nit pick every company “rule” to the detriment of the company as a whole.

    On the other hand, have you ever wondered if SOME of the “bad press” about HR is a thinly veiled attack on women in power? Sort of like how Barbara Strisand is attacked, and Hilary Clinton is vilified in the press? It can be threatening to a certain type of individual (even now).

    Just sayin’.
    Dawn

  6. Tashana
    December 11, 2010 | 3:03 pm

    I totally agree. There are way to many ‘so called’ HR professionals who have slept on the opportunity to be part of the business – and with that they are just fine. But how in the world does that help our business partners? What I really do not understand is how any HR professional can expect to be valued when they are clueless about what it takes to make the business run. Sure, we need to understand the laws, how to deliver a great evaluation, yata yata yata…but what about being able to jump in with your marketing partners and help them position their product based on your expansive knowledge of the industry?

    How about sales? HR folk should be as well versed about the business as the business is. We can not help the business grow by just keeping them out of trouble at all the office parties. That’s fine if all we aspire to be is adult daycare providers, but (and here comes that cliched phrase I hate and use ohhh too much) at the end of the day, we need to BE the business. And I know that wont make me a lot of friends — but oh well. We’re not here to make friends, we’re here to grow and develop our lines of business; and we can not do that by clock watching.

    Great post! Thanks.

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