Years ago, companies had what was called “Personnel” departments that basically took care of employee records, dealt with labor relations, and promoted jobs internally within a company. It wasn’t glamorous work, but it was necessary nonetheless. This function evolved and blossomed over the years to what is now referred to as the Human Resources Department. It went from basic record keeping to recruiting, training, benefits, career development, and much more. Yet, time and again, I hear from friends and contacts in corporate America who speak with disdain when the term “H.R.” is brought up.
When asked why, they describe it as a huge and lethargic bureaucracy which is more of an impediment than an expediter for conducting business.
One area that is frequently criticized is recruiting which I have heard characterized as a “black box” whereby both candidates and department managers wait weeks or months for H.R. to make the necessary arrangements, and process paperwork. Candidates are frustrated and feel like they are left in limbo. Consequently, they start to look for work elsewhere and the company loses potentially good employees. Department managers are likewise frustrated as they are anxious to tackle pressing projects and assignments. Some have become so frustrated, they hire consultants as opposed to going through the arduous H.R. process of hiring employees. They simply want to get the job done and don’t have time for bureaucracy.
Understand this, H.R. would not be the behemoth it is today if we didn’t live in a litigious society where everything seems to end up in court. It is no small wonder they are often referred to as the “PC Watchdogs” (“Politically Correct”) as their mission, in part, is to keep the company out of court. From this perspective, perhaps the best way to think of H.R. is as a necessary evil.
The intent of H.R. is to bring standard and consistent practices in the use of Human Resources, which is good. However, if H.R. is perceived as a roadblock to progress, you have to wonder about its usefulness and question how it is organized. For example, should it be a centralized or decentralized function? Ideally, the H.R. department must remember it serves the rest of the company, not the other way around.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is an author, freelance writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at email@example.com
For Tim’s columns, see: timbryce.com
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