HR: the Place where Smart goes to Die | HR Fishbowl

Originally published on October 9, 2009 this is one of the first posts I ever wrote. I’m sharing it again from the Vacation Archives…

I came across a Tweet from one @hulach today and it incited a riot in my head.  He says 2 years ago I met a HR manager…really smart.  After 2 years, smart turned stupid!” Aside from being quite pithy – and I’m a fan of pithy – I started to wonder whether there is something to this notion that being part of an HR department can quite literally suck the smarts out of you.  I’m not sure if that’s what @hulach was suggesting, but let’s pretend for a second that he’s on to something.

  1. How many Ivy League School grads do you know who have sought a career in HR?  I know a couple – and they are quite successful.  It’s certainly not the norm, though.  I’ve asked before and will do so again: Name the top 5 business schools in the U.S.  Now, name the top 5 HR graduate level programs in the U.S.  Which was easier?  Exactly.
  2. I know a lot of people who got into HR with absolutely no formal HR training or education (myself included…scary, I know); is HR the Ellis Island of career immigrants – give us your tired, your poor? Will we take anyone? Is what we do so easily learned that anyone can do it?
  3. I know a number of people who got into HR because they wanted a change in lifestyle – meaning they left something that was really hard and demanding to go into something that was…well, easier.
  4. Is the HR department a place where one’s intellect is stimulated or are we so busy running around putting out fires, managing risk, and keeping our people paid and benefited…generally checking the boxes?  Does merely checking the boxes lead to boredom, and then apathy, and finally brain atrophy?
  5. Why is it that 9.9 times out of 10, I have to further explain what an SPHR is to non-HR people.  Do people have to do that when they introduce themselves as a CPA?  Are the professional credentials we hold in HR really an indication of academic, intellectual, or career achievement?  And by the way, did you know SPHR comes up in “spellcheck” but CPA doesn’t…
  6. I know a number of people who got into HR from other careers (see ’3′), but I don’t know a lot of people who got into other careers from HR.  This is maybe the most telling of all.  Once you become an HR person, is that all you can be?  Seriously, are you stuck there?  What exactly is HR the Triple-A club for?

I’d love to get some responses to this post – hopefully some of your comments will include some tangible indication that I’m way off base and far too unkind to the profession.  But if I can ask these questions as a 17+ year guy on the inside, what’s being asked by those who are outside looking in?

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