Oh Great, Another Blow to the HR Punching Bag

Man, you gotta wonder sometimes what poor HR professionals ever did to deserve all the wrath and vitriol they get. Hard to name many other professions quite as hated — except maybe tax collectors in 162315694 -- getting punchedBiblical times or used car salesmen today.

The latest swipe at the profession I so happen to cover is this lovely piece posted last week on the Forbes website titled “It’s Time for Companies to Fire their Human Resource Departments.”

While, granted, the headline did get my attention, the rest left a lot to be taken seriously. Kyle Smith, the writer, starts out with a rather bizarre reference to a study from Ben-Gurion and Ariel universities suggesting female HR staffers who dominate the field are more intent on meeting handsome men than hiring solid HR recruits. Excuse me? I’m not even an HR staffer and I’m offended.

He also carefully picks pieces of other — in my estimation, much more substantial and credible — critiques of the profession to throw his punches: one, the now-famous 2005 piece published by Fast Company magazine, “Why We Hate HR,” and another 2010 piece posted on the Harvard Business Review blog, “Is HR Too Important to be Left to HR?” I will give him one point he makes, that there are significant discrepancies (backed by studies) between how happy HR thinks workers are and how happy they really are. We’ve reported on those discrepancies as well and they’re worth bearing in mind.

One piece I did not find in his litany of swipes and references was this commentary, written in 2010 by Fast Company co-founder William C. Taylor, titled “Why We (Shouldn’t) Hate HR.” Taylor, a published author and frequent speaker to business groups — including HR — made some great points:

The real problem, I’d submit, isn’t that HR executives aren’t financially savvy enough, or too focused on delivering programs rather than enhancing value, or unable to conduct themselves as the equals of the traditional power players in the organization–all points the original essay makes. The real problem is that too many organizations aren’t as demanding, as rigorous, as creative about the human element in business as they are about finance, marketing, and R&D. If companies and their CEOs aren’t serious about the people side of their organizations, how can we expect HR people in those organizations to play as a serious a role as we (and they) want them to play?

And this:

So the next time you, as an employee, get frustrated with HR, or you, as an HR executive, get frustrated with your role inside the company, stop sweating the small stuff and start asking the big questions: Why would great people want to be part of your organization in the first place? Do you know a great person when you see one? Are you great at teaching people how your organizations works and wins? Does your organization work as distinctively as it competes?

If your company and its leaders can answer those questions, then you’ll have an organization that is capable of winning–and an HR organization that everyone can love.

Interesting how a piece written close to three years ago hits far closer to home when it comes to the issues, concerns and realities of the HR profession today than a piece released just last week. Interesting, isn’t it, how the former is far more timely than the latter.

Looks like some media folks just seem to have it in for HR, and that tendency seems to be timeless.