Pretty much everyone, everywhere, it seems, has some sort of severe dislike for HR as a function; there seems to be even more public disdain for the general populations of individuals who constitute the HR professionals.
This general animosity for HR is nothing new. Over the past decade or so, there have been manifold posts and well publicized articles fueling the HR hating fires.
From the infamous 2005 Fast Company cover story, titled, simply, “Why We Hate HR” to the similarly subtle “Why We Love To Hate HR,” published just this past August as the cover feature of the Harvard Business Review, while there’s been some dissent on the causes for the mainstream malice towards our function, the consensus is clear.
In the court of public opinion, HR professionals rank somewhere between used car salesmen and tobacco lobbyists.
The continuous war on HR that’s played out for over ten years now has, inevitably, led to suggestions about the viability and necessity of even having an HR function in the first place. As a result, plenty of industry pundits, respected business community leaders, academics, consultants and average employees have suggested that the entire HR function should be completely obliterated.
This “why we hate HR” sentiment makes sense; given the constant barrage of public pillorying HR has been subjected to, the conclusion that we’d all be better off in business without HR is understandable, even rational, really. What makes less sense is the fact that after all the incessant griping and calls for the elimination (or extreme reduction) of HR, absolutely nothing – nothing – has changed.
The complaints haven’t made a dent (at least a noticeable one) anywhere in the corporate world, the same place where the function allegedly wrecked so much havoc that the widespread, entrenched negative reputation it had made for itself seemed to suggest shakeup, not stasis. But we’re still here. And the constant drumbeat of negative press, vicious commentary and attacks by all sides has all come to nothing.
Now, let me be the first to say I’m not here to defend HR. Nor am I responsible for the HR practitioners who perpetuated this perpetual perception problem. With that disclaimer, let me be the first to say that I find this topic ever so tiresome. In fact, I think it’s complete crap, if I’m being honest.
But I’d also like to say some of the reasons I feel this way. And I know I’m not alone.
$#!+ Recruiters Say.
As an active user and consumer of the various platforms and tools available to us today for online communication, I’ve noticed HR bashing has become even easier (and more ubiquitous) than ever before.
If you’re using any of the various networks we all have at our disposal, you can’t help but notice that there seems to be a continuous barrage of HR bashing.
Or, if you’re part of the many professional communities and groups online dedicated to our industry, that a disproportionate amount of that bashing happens right in the middle of many recruiting related conversations.
Now, I know that I am not officially a “real” recruiter who “actually makes placements,” a fact that I know many members of these groups feel means that I have absolutely no credibility whatsoever. I call bullshit.
I am most decidedly not a “Top Recruiter,” which, somehow, seems to gain more respect on social media than HR – which is saying something. So, if you think I’m not a “true” recruiter, fine.
The one thing I need for you to know, though, is that while this post may come across as defensive, it’s not meant to be, at all.
The thing is that my skin is thick. Unlike many in our profession, I actually welcome criticism, disagreement and dissention on anything it is I say or write. It’s how I learn, and how I become better at HR and business, too. And, I absolutely value any input or insight, such as a barrage of agency recruiters bitching about HR buffoonery, as long as it’s not a personal attack, advances the bigger conversation and helps ME do MY job even better.
Nor is my intent to ramble on about how I’m different than the typical ding-a-ling with an HR title. I don’t plan on making any public pleas to stop saying mean stuff, or any calls for cordiality.
Here’s the thing: I might be HR to any “true” recruiting hardliner, but I happen to agree with almost every single complaint I see and hear coming out of recruiters.
You don’t need to take any more than a passing glance at some of the vapid fluff floating around HR hashtags or content to see why we remain the black sheep in the greater human capital family. I get it why HR isn’t anyone’s favorite.
Even HR doesn’t really like HR. But it’s a living.
Recruiters, Stop the Insanity.
While most of my official job titles haven’t included the word “recruiter,” I’ve been in a variety of HR roles throughout my career, and during the entire time I’ve been an HR practitioner, I’ve had some sort of connection, in one way or another, to recruiting, throughout my entire career. I’ve always had some recruiting related responsibilities, which is one of the reasons I happen to care about the bigger picture more than the partisan parts.
It’s also one of the reasons I’m so tired of the divisive interdepartmental dysfunction, infighting and general disdain between recruiting and HR. It makes no sense, because outside of this silo, the rest of the world doesn’t see the distinction.
We’re all HR. And we should all really be on the same side, because we’re all fighting for the same things – first and foremost, credibility and respect.
It’s up to all of us to educate the rest of our businesses on our value to the organization, and work towards changing the minds of our employees instead of bickering among ourselves.
We should never accept any level of ignorance, incompetence or ineptness when dealing with HR issues (recruiting included) as a given; we shouldn’t resign ourselves to the status quo of the status quo. Because it kind of sucks, and being OK with being the whipping boy for the rest of the world of work isn’t how any of this is supposed to work.
The way I see it is that HR is only operating according to the rules of business as usual, which means that the HR function has accepted our second class status as an inevitability and done everything possible to live up to the low expectations everyone else has for them, sort of a self-propagating Pygmalion Effect.
No one expects anything from HR but a pain in the butt, it seems. The bar is low. That’s why we’re OK holding everyone else to higher standards than ourselves, or why the group responsible for performance management fails to hold themselves accountable for their own mediocre performance. And there’s no one else out there to hold HR responsible for their mediocrity and malaise. I’ve wondered for quite some time about why that’s the case. Conventional wisdom, it seems, holds HR as a lost cause.
But rumors of the death of HR have been greatly exaggerated. As sweet a solution as either eliminating HR entirely, or at least, disintermediating it from the recruiting function and sending it into back office or outsourced exile seems, the fact is, it’s not realistic.
HR is here to stay – like it or not.
Don’t Hate the Player. Change the Game.
The key is to stop talking about this utopia where HR doesn’t exist, a conversation that’s as far fetched as it is futile, and figure out how, exactly, we can all stop worrying and learn to love HR. Or at least, respect the work we do and the people who do it.
I’m not expecting people to start working with HR overnight. I’m just asking for business professionals in general, and recruiters in particular, to stop working against us so damned much. It’s not helping either of our causes.
Recruiters understand what it’s like to be dismissed or not taken seriously; no matter how much credibility we have as a profession, though, it’s our job to do our jobs. If you’re an HR Army of One, as is often the case (trust me, I’ve been there), then you’re not only expected to do it all (including recruiting), you’re expected to do it all well, if not world class, without dropping a single, solitary ball. The constant juggle of competing priorities and ridiculous range of responsibilities are why we’re called “generalists,” after all.
While I identify more with HR than I do with “true” recruiters, I don’t identify with the many frustrations and challenges many of my fellow HR peers seem to cause for recruiters; I realize we’re responsible for a lot of the hatred directed our way, and understand that sometimes, our jobs may come into conflict. We might not always agree, particularly if there’s any HR issues that come up (and they often do) during the offer process.
There are conflicts and tension in every function, in every organization, at every level, at every employer – but the open animosity and adversarial relationship between recruiters and HR seems a bit extreme, to say the least. It is a relationship that needs to change, and change now. After all these years of factional fighting, though, how do we go about effecting that change?
As an industry, how do we get there from here?
Recruiters, Don’t Let HR Wreck Your Show.
Whether you’re in third party search, work for a staffing agency, sit at an RPO, are an independent recruiter or part of a global TA team in-house at an enterprise employer, if you’re a recruiter, you’re also part of the problem, not part of the solution.
And If you’re a recruiter, and you think your HR “partner” is creating too many obstacles for you to successfully do your job of finding, attracting, and hiring the right candidate for the requisition you need to fill, don’t bitch about it to other recruiters behind closed doors.
Seriously. You want to change HR, you have to shut up and start somewhere.
Talk to them. Get to know them. Figure out how to address challenges instead of assigning blame. Choose action, not reaction. The price of doing nothing is hurting us all.
Remember, you don’t have to like HR. But you have to live with us, because we’re not going anywhere. No matter what the posts and pundits say.
About the Author: Leveraging her unique perspective as a progressive thinker with a well-rounded background from diverse corporate settings, Kelly Blokdijk advises members of the business community on targeted human resource, recruiting and organization development initiatives to enhance talent management, talent acquisition, corporate communications and employee engagement programs.
Kelly is an active HR and recruiting industry blogger and regular contributor on RecruitingBlogs.com. She also candidly shares opinions, observations and ideas as a member of RecruitingBlogs’ Editorial Advisory Board.