Two Reasons Why HR Stinks (and How to Fix It)

An acquaintance just got her first job after being a stay at home mom for many years. She’s a recruiter. Salary? $10 an hour.

Take that in for a minute.

She could make more money working fast food, yet a company is trusting her to be part of finding the best possible candidates for their company, and they only value her work at $10 an hour.

She’s happy to have the job, and she figures she’ll get good experience here. I’m delighted a company was willing to take a chance on someone who hasn’t worked in a while, and I hope they thoroughly train her. But, it’s clear that recruiting isn’t a priority for them.

That’s problem number one. Inexperienced and untrained people recruiting for you will offer a less than great candidate experience. A less than great recruiting experience puts off good candidates and reinforces the notion that HR doesn’t know what they are doing.

That is not to say that my acquaintance isn’t doing a good job–by all accounts she is. But, she won’t stick around there long term. Why would she? She’ll get training and move on to a company that now appreciates her refreshed skills.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, more than once, I’ve seen people pose the following question; “I’ve just been hired as head of HR for a startup. What do I need to know?”

When you hire someone to head up your HR who has to go to an online forum to ask what they need to know, you’ve just told the entire world that you don’t care about your employees.

So, when I hear business leaders complaining about how awful HR is, but they hire inexperienced heads of HR and pay their recruiters $10 an hour, I know that the problem isn’t with the HR professionals, but with the business itself.

The best HR person in the world can’t overcome a CEO who doesn’t value expertise in this area. Sure, some of the best HR people come from the business side of things, but they need training in the actual field of HR.

Now, I shouldn’t complain too loudly, as a lot of business comes from poorly managed HR departments. When your HR manager doesn’t know how to properly pay people, about the interactive process for ADAwhat sexual harassment means, or any number of other things, you either end up in court or have to hire someone to help you.

Of course, employment lawyers should serve as experts. Of course, even seasoned HR pros need to hire a consultant from time to time. If you don’t have the basics down, you won’t even know when you need to hire someone to help you out.

So, business owners: if you want good HR, you need to pay for it and hire someone with experience to run the department. Otherwise, take a look in the mirror when you complain about the Human Resources Department.

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6 thoughts on “Two Reasons Why HR Stinks (and How to Fix It)

  1. I really like this blog article. I believe the fundamental problem is that leadership often sees HR as a revenue drain versus the “line” operations as revenue generators. I have been in HR 23 years. I have learned over the years to quantify everything my team accomplishes..litigation avoided, savings on contracts, ROI on an HR system, not to mention monthly metrics. Until we put a dollar value on what we do and measure it, I fear HR will always be viewed as I was once referred to as “Hardly Relevant.” That is until I had to fly to meet this business head to explain in the US his sexual jokes on every conference call were not acceptable in the US, and if he wanted his job, they would stop immediately. That was the last time I heard I was ‘Hardly Relevant”!

  2. I left a company where they paid HR so poorly that the only Head of HR that they could afford was a Specialist that had 2 years HR experience, was fired for incompetence from her previous job, and it was discovered that she was lying about her degree. But the priority was not to spend money on HR and it was the best they could afford.
    By month end, there was a stack of lawsuits against the company. It’s amazing how fast the whole company went to hell after that hire.

  3. Evil,

    You wrote: “they only value her work at $10 an hour”

    That’s not quite how this works. Presumably the value we bring to the company is a multiplier of what we get paid. Many people in my line of work focus on productivity improvement of one sort of another, and we get paid just a fraction of the overall value we bring to the business.

    Businesses pay what they feel they need to get the quality of employee they think they want. Over time, I’ve learned to stop “blaming” crappy or dysfunctional employees for being that way. I’ve learned to blame their *management*, because *management* is who/what chooses to put up with that.

  4. You could re-write this article by substitute any position and still come up with the same reaction. If the company views employee labor as a drain on their profit line rather than the reason for that profit they are not a company that cares for employees, period. Sorry HR, you just got dumped into the big pot of labor cost considered non-essential to the company. Welcome to the pool of being unneeded cost, even though our efforts keep the company going. The companies today work for the shareholders’ profit only.

  5. You are right of course about companies undervaluing HR, but in my experience, HR has some responsibility in this problem as well. Too many HR folks are like “pigs in mud” loving to roll around in compliance. For most small businesses or those CEOs focused on growth, this attitude does not seem helpful or strategic. Most see the compliance stuff as a necessary evil and want to deal with it as cheaply and quickly as possible so they can get on with real business. As HR folks we need to contribute to that strategic imperative and be less of a kill joy with constant drum beat of rules and regulations.

    1. I faced the same issue with environmental compliance oversight and as a safety officer. That attitude you describe is incredibly short-sighted. The consequences of not following the regulations range from fines, to projects being shut down, to people being killed. Sure, it’s not fun to be told “You can’t do that”. It’s a lot less fun to be told “You’re going to jail”.

      HR, along with environmental compliance and safety officers, can contribute by helping find ways to complete projects without violating regulatory requirements, but far too many companies and managers wait until the last second to bring them on. Compliance folks of all stripes should be brought on board int he beginning of the process. It’s much, much easier to come up with ways to address regulatory requirements at the planning phase than it is to figure out how to fix a problem that causes regulators to focus on your company.

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