You don’t have to have read one article or post – and there are too many to read, anyway – about the disconnect between recruiting and HR to notice that, yeah, there’s a pretty big divide between those who acquire talent and those who manage it, as it were.
Even if you ignore the HR and recruiting blogosphere – and if so, I’m jealous – then chances are you’ve spotted it in your own organization.
If you’ve ever worked in this weird little corner of the business world, you already know the fact that the point of hire becomes a point of contention, since each respective faction works exclusively on different touch points in the employee experience (which, of course, inevitably starts with the candidate experience).
But most of these online “Influencers” or “thought leaders” or whatever the hell they are, they’ve never worked a day in their lives as a recruiting or HR professional, fighting in the talent trenches instead of on Twitter or Facebook. Those who can’t do, go into blogging and consulting.
I follow that old maxim, “write what you know,” which is why, after spending a few years too many doing employee paperwork, hanging OSHA posters and being the default person for picking up company parties or common spaces, I decided to write about what I’d seen out there in the wild and crazy world of HR. Which is why I wanted to weigh in on the discourse about the disconnect dividing generalists from specialists.
Think Different: The Great Divide Between HR and Recruiting.
While, as mentioned, there are thousands upon thousands of posts out there taking potshots at this prosaic topic, the gist of these conversations seems to fall squarely within one of three categories:
1. Recruiting should reside in HR. Period.
2. Recruiting and HR should be separate business functions. This means the head of TA should start reporting directly to the CEO. Right.
3. The entire HR function should be outsourced, leaving recruiting as THE organizational sweet spot where all talent decisions are made. Everything else gets sent to Bangalore, Manila or Singapore.
Where you come down on these categories, one can pretty easily ascertain, is very much a matter of personal perspective. If you’re an in-house recruiter whose official spot on the official org chart sits somewhere towards the bottom of the HR hierarchy, I’m going to bet you probably feel like you don’t belong there.
If you’re the CHRO, conversely, chances are you probably don’t want your entire function put out for an MSP while the head of TA more or less gets to do all the stuff you like about your job while the crappy back office stuff that’s kept you from making an impact finally disappears like it probably should have a few decades ago. And if you want recruiting and HR operated as separate functions, you’re in the small majority of the minority of workers who actually give a crap either way. Go you.
Here’s the thing: both recruiting and HR practitioners spend a lot of their time completely confused, shaking our heads in bewilderment as we ask ourselves the same question: “why do they do that?” Both functions are, for better or worse, professional bedfellows, but even proximity can’t preempt polarization, nor shine a light on the superimposed shadow separating these two sides. And it’s frustrating.
Earlier this year, I helped organize #truBatonRouge, an unconference designed to bring both recruiting and HR practitioners in my community together to at least try to talk things out – and even getting them involved in the same conversation in the same room seemed to be like ships passing in the night. Either that, or, for the few paying attention, as an HR practitioner who was in attendance I spoke to during a session break confirmed to me as if having some type of break through moment, “HR people and recruiters sure think differently, don’t they?”
Slow clap. Indeed, they do, wise lady. Indeed they do.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
OK, I get it. If you’re in recruiting, it’s incredibly easy to write off how banal and useless you perceive your HR counterpart to be by sweepingly stereotyping, or conveniently categorizing her, as some sort of crochet sweater swearing, resting bitch face, humorless harridan hellbent on her Quixotic quest for organizational power that she stands no chance of ever achieving.
You put every HR lady out there into the same broad bucket, it’s not hard to justify never actually paying them any attention or respect, which makes your job, ostensibly, a little easier. But I’m guessing few of you have even considered the fact that maybe, just maybe, if you went out on your own quest, you might just find the Holy Grail of what it takes to find, attract and engage top talent – both inside, and outside, your organization.
This is going to sound completely bat shit crazy, I’m an HR lady, so recruiters, I know you’re probably already thinking that, anyway – so here goes:
I want you to get to know your HR neighbor.
Imaginationland: Life in The HR and Recruiting Neighborhood
An aside for a little story. A few years back, my Neighborhood Association proved yet again that they totally justified their mandatory membership fee every year by setting us all up on this thing called Nextdoor. It was really nothing more than another social network I had to sign up for so that I could have the privilege of receiving push notifications on everything happening within a 12 block radius of my house (Bike stolen! Cat missing! Plumber Recommendation Needed!).
When someone new moved into the neighborhood, they no longer received a knock on the door and a casserole.
Nope, they received a spotlight page when you logged into Nextdoor – “Welcome Beau and Trina to the neighborhood!” – and a bunch of generic “Welcome!” responses that had all the personalization of someone pressing the birthday button on Facebook following in a flurry.
This, I’m afraid, wasn’t the worst of it. Too lazy to drive 5 minutes over to Goodwill to get rid of that useless pile of books? Post that you’re giving them away on Nextdoor! Want to let all of your neighbors know your crazy conspiracy theories and nut job political views? Why don’t you share them on Nextdoor? Want a debate on the merits of setting off your own fireworks on the 4th of July? Join the Nextdoor conversation!
I imagine this Nextdoor app was selected because the people in my neighborhood have about the same demographic as AARP or SPHR members, which is to say, I pretty much live in either a nursing home, a morgue or the social media station at a state SHRM conference. Undoubtedly, these ‘active seniors’ were terrified of Facebook, but would trust technology if approved by an august body like the Neighborhood Association. Kind of like your average HR Manager.
Look, we’re all in the same neighborhood, and whether we like it or not, are all seen by everyone outside the confines of this echo chamber as more or less part and parcel of the same function, so we’ve got to at least try to live together.
The collective property value of our professional real estate pretty much depends on it, and I, for one, don’t want to end up underwater. That’s why when it comes to getting to know your HR neighbor, it’s your choice to sink or swim.
When that nice young couple moved in on your block, or when Joe and Alice, God bless them, bought the old Collins house next door, the first thing you did probably wasn’t figuring out how to make them feel at home in their new home. It was probably going online and doing some snooping into who, exactly, these people were.
You probably looked up how much they paid on either your city’s tax records or a site like Zillow, definitely googled their names (or any variant of a nickname), and made sure you found out any online profile the trail of digital breadcrumbs happened to lead you to.
Let’s say you find out that Joe used to work with your cousin a few years back at the same company – and so, of course, you get said cousin on the phone ASAP to get the scoop. Wait. Didn’t you?
Now, if you’re a recruiter, you already know that the information you want and need on your HR neighbors is pretty easy to find – and chances are, you probably already have stalked/sourced at least one HRBP on occasion – likely for blackmail. But what if you put all that aside – and the assumptions that came with it (“Who doesn’t have a Twitter account?”) – then maybe, just maybe, you’ll get some insight into what really goes on in the house next door.
Sure, at first it might feel more like a trek to a foreign country than a few steps to the common departmental breakroom, and if you’re a recruiter, although if you’re a recruiter, getting to know your HR teammate is no luxury vacation. Nope, it’s more like a death march through the jungle surrounded by bugs the size of your head, no fresh water and nothing around but rocks as toilet paper. Who says HR isn’t sexy?
As you get ready to embark on this journey, you’ll want to prepare yourself by turning to the human capital equivalent of Fodor’s or Lonely Planet (aka HR Generalists’ Tinder profiles) and visit the websites of SHRM or the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. These will help you brush up on the native lingo and lexicon, and check out what’s new and what’s noteworthy for the HR crowd.
If you can figure this out AND avoid lapsing into a coma, you’re going to be well on your way to being able to carry on a real conversation with a real HR professional on Consumer Driven Health Plans, OSHA or handling charging employees for their work uniforms. This sort of shop talk is like HR lady foreplay, without the Hostess products.
3 Things Your HR Lady Cares About.
While you improve your HR IQ (or dumb yourself down, conversely), you’ll gain some critical information about your HR neighbors. Here are some of the divine secrets of the SHRM sisterhood you’re likely to discover.
1. Compliance is King.
Sure, HR Ladies love to talk about being strategic or supporting the business, but in reality, many if not most HR folks truly enjoy, and prefer, the cold hard comfort of eschewing ambiguities in favor of a world where everything is black and white. HR runs on precedents set through decades of case law, federal and local regulations, circuit court rulings and EEOC Enforcement guidance documents, and if you know these, boy, you’re talking the language of human resource management.
You think OFCCP and tax documentation are a pain in the ass, ask your HR co-workers about Forms 1095-C and 1094-C.
You’ll set their hearts aflutter – and likely cement your friendship.
2. Staffing: I Love The 80s.
Your average HR veteran has spent a career doing a little bit of this, a little bit of that, pretty much doing everything and anything to get her job done, and she doesn’t really have the time to understand the nuances of “talent acquisition,” nor, really, does she care to.
She firmly believes that just-in-time gets it done every time, and that recruiting involves posting a job description on a bunch of websites and gleefully winnowing them out is all recruiting really is. She could give two shits about how to source on SnapChat or build a magnetic employer brand. But she does care about making sure the employees you hire are the right ones.
And I said, what about, Breakfast at Tiffany’s? And she said, yeah, I remember that film. And she said, I recall, I rather liked it. And me, I said, well that’s, one thing we’ve got.
3. The Dark Side Is Strong.
Sure, there are a ton of downright nasty, malevolent, misanthropic people out there working in HR. But the same holds true for pretty much every profession out there. And at the end of the day, and despite all their obvious faults, most HR professionals truly want the same thing as you do: to do what’s right for employees and their employer. This isn’t always easy – and sometimes, can even border on downright evil (albeit always a necessary one).
No one who hasn’t been there can really understand why the HR department does the shit that it does – nor can they legally share the details to justify why they did the shit they did. Being a heel instead of a hero sucks sometimes. We’d all rather be the “Six Million Dollar Man” Steve Austin to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. And, contrary to popular belief, most HR managers don’t spend their days holed out in a secret lair plotting the downfall of blacklisted employees.
Only a few do that, but assume that your HR Manager just might not be a bad guy or gal and they’ll probably prove you right – most of us aren’t terrible people. And we care deeply about what we do, too.
Like A Good Neighbor…
When your neighbors moved in, chances are you took the time to take a walk over there to greet them in person. And, of course, to scope out their taste in lawn and interior decor. It’s OK, you can admit it. And while you eventually determined that they were insufferable boors, you still took the time do drop off the requisite Christmas cards and cookies, catch up on gossip and invite them over for tequila shots. Hey, we’ve all got our “thing.”
Paying a visit to your HR neighbors should pretty much go down the same way. If you really want to butter them up, grab a box of donuts or one of those big paper thermoses of Starbucks along the way, and you’ll have them literally eating out of your hand as you stroll around the HR department.
Sure, you might have to listen to Joe make a thousand football references a day, or Barb bitch about the horrors of processing FMLA paperwork (hint: no one cares), but take a deep breath and man up. You can do it. And you know how?
It’s called being pleasant and being cordial. Manners, people, they go a long way. Didn’t your mother teach you that? If you want a seat at the table, best keep your elbows off of it. If you want to be a good neighbor to HR, here are a few simple things you can do to live with, not without, each other:
1. Confidence is Key.
If there’s one thing every HR person values, it’s the person who knows how to keep a secret. In the nascent days of any relationship with any HR lady, chances are she’ll be reticent to tell you anything, but as time passes, she’ll inevitably realize that you’re actually a member of her department – and start looping you in on any pertinent HR news.
That means you’ll suddenly get the scoop – in confidence, of course – that an internal investigation into time-stealing/time-recording violations are about to result in the termination of 5 tech support staff members. They’ll be let go on Monday.
Hey, they’re just doing their job. Even if that means someone might not get to keep theirs. Either way, the key to making sure yours is safe is to make sure that no matter what, you know how to keep a secret a secret.
2. Be A Regular.
While your HR Manager might seem like she hates nothing more than having any unscheduled interruptions in her oh so busy day (despite the “Open Door” policy promised in the back of the employee handbook no one reads), I guarantee that she loves nothing more than when someone stops by unannounced for a well-timed “social” visit.
Providing your HR Lady with a momentary respite from the tedium of entering retirement plan contribution amounts into an Excel spreadsheet and providing her with some juicy office gossip will put you on her good side faster than a box of Godiva chocolates. Well, almost as fast.
3. Remember Her Birthday.
It’s easy enough to just punch the ubiquitous “Happy Birthday!” button, give a Facebook shout out and peace out, nothing scores more points with your HR Manager than if you actually remember – and take time to glorify in her big day of celebrating through pastries, baked goods or muffins. Nothing says “I care” more to an HR Lady than a card and some cakes. No matter how inane the occasion: you bring baked goods for their cats’ birthdays, you have a friend for life.
Here’s the thing: your local HR manager, no matter what you might believe, really wants her relationship with recruiting to really succeed. Really. Because while she hates the whole idea of a “personal brand” and does everything within her power (and company policy) to make sure you tone down your personal style, deep down, she’s still a person.
A person who just wants to be accepted, treated with respect, and maybe, just maybe, getting the occasional Bath & Body Works gift basket when holiday season rolls around. Hint, hint…
Robin Schooling is on a mission to make organizations better by making HR better. With 20+ years of senior HR leadership experience in a variety of industries, she consults with organizations, advises HR teams, speaks to HR and business audiences and writes for a variety of sites and publications.
Schooling has been an active and involved SHRM volunteer leader, holds a few of those HR certifications herself, and at one point in time even received an award as “HR Professional of the Year.” She has been known to search out the perfect French 75 and is a fervent and unapologetic fan of the New Orleans Saints, even if they did trade Jimmy Graham.