July 2, 2010

Why HR?

Filed under: Hiring, Recruiting, Stuff I worry about, Stupid HR Tricks

Uh-uh, Bill Taylor.

I just read Why We (Shouldn’t) Hate HR on FastCompany.com. I wish Bill (one of the brilliant founders of FastCompany magazine) hadn’t questioned the intent and meaning of Keith Hammond’s original 2005 article, Why We Hate HR. If anything, it’s more valid today than it was 5 years ago because today budgets are tighter and employers must hire and manage people with even more care. HR is still the focal point of the problem.

I don’t think pushing the HR problem onto a company’s employees “because they are the human resources” works. I think that’s another issue and another article. Hammond was talking about the Human Resources department, not the employees. Let’s stick to the subject.

Perhaps time prompts us to recast the original question: Do we really hate HR? I don’t think so, but HR bugs us. We’ve seen all the ways that HR as an organization — generally speaking — doesn’t work very well. Some HR departments flourish and represent a return on investment to their companies; but I think the majority of us agree that most don’t. Hence our “hatred” for HR. I think that since you Hammond that big question to us 5 years ago, it seems the more important question today is, Why HR?

I don’t think there’s a good answer that supports the existence of most HR departments. Sure, some good HR departments pay off, but does any company really need an HR department?

Even if we set aside the truly productive HR departments, the problem is all the other HR departments that are unnecessary and counterproductive. Let’s look at what HR does, and how it could be done better by another corporate function:

1. Handle regulatory matters. Most companies have legal departments. The answer seems simple: Let the legal folks grow an implementation and compliance team for human resources matters. Keep the responsibility close to the department that does the work.

2. Employee training and development. Where does this role really belong? At home in each business unit or company department. Create a position that enables managers to decide how to educate, train, and develop their workers. Implement it locally, where bureaucratic nonsense is less likely to interfere. How many questionable “consultling firms” do HR departments hire and foist on business units, without the unit really wanting the service? I can count on two hands and feet the number of pedantic consulting firms I’ve seen hired by HR because they wine and dine and flatter HR execs. Let the business units decide how to invest the funds for a return the business units are accountable for. (When is the last time you saw HR reprimanded for hiring a crummy consultant or trainer?)

3. Organization design. If this is a business science, I’ve never understood why it is a separate discipline. Any business unit’s management team is responsible for structuring its operations, and it should hire the experts it needs to help it do the job. I’ve seen one disastrous organizational design after another created by people who are not expert in the business being designed.

4. Workforce analysis and data management. If ever there were an administrative role in management, this is it. I believe performance and workforce planning problems start when the department (HR) responsible for them is not measured on… workforce performance. Show me a company where HR is measured and judged based on the actual performance of all employees, and I’ll eat this column. This is a perfect role for oversight by the finance department, which also rounds up departmental budgets each year. But make each business unit accountable for its own analysis and planning.

5. Employee relations, social programs, and events. Gimme a break. Companies don’t need den mothers. Rather than pay big bucks for big programs, big mission statements, and big public relations initiatives, spend a few dollars to hire a specialist for each business unit who is responsible for monitoring and coordinating employee programs. Make sure these specialists learn your business first. Retired high school vice principals are good candidates.

6. Compensation and benefits management. Don’t waste that great finance department you have. Those people are really good at numbers. Invest in some further training and develop some specialists to handle competitive compensation and effective benefits programs. Gathering and analyzing competitive market data is not rocket science; get your department managers involved. Why does any company need an entire department — whose performance isn’t (can’t be?) measured — making decisions about competitive compensation practices?

7. Recruiting, processing and hiring. Let’s consider some facts. Last year one of the biggest online job board’s revenues were around $1.3 billion. Your HR department is the source of most of that revenue. But your company made only about 4% of its hires from that job board. Is your board of directors aware that your HR department is shoveling company cash to “recruitment advertising partners” whose services don’t work? Unless you’re one of the handful of lucky companies that has internal recruiters who get out from behind their computer screens and actually go out into the world and seek, find, seduce, cajole, and otherwise steal good workers, your HR department is costing you not only money — but your lifeblood. While critical, profit-producing jobs go undone — and HR’s performance goes unmeasured — your HR execs are telling the world there’s a “talent shortage” while we’re experiencing the greatest glut of unemployed, highly-educated and skilled workers in history. (I wrote my own “Why We Hate HR” column earlier this year: Time for HR to exit the hiring business.)

Bill Taylor says, “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?”

I don’t agree. I think successful organizations are very rigorous and creative about getting profitable work from their employees, their managers, and their business units. The problem is, those organizations don’t expect as much from HR, hence HR is usually not overseen, not measured, and not judged for its performance. It’s the department no one wants to be responsible for. It’s the department that is not subjected to outcomes analysis. Anything goes. And we know it does. That’s why we hate HR — though we shouldn’t. After all, HR does what the board of directors permits it to do.

The best HR people I know find ways to embed themselves into business units. They become part of a business team. They don’t hide behind “company overhead.” More than anything else, it’s the success of those precious few “HR folks” that makes me ask, Why HR?

I still haven’t heard a good answer.

[I originally wrote this column for FastCompany.com, which published it under its Leadership section. It got little notice. Something tells me the Ask The Headhunter audience will have a lot more to say about the topic.]

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32 Comments on “Why HR?”
By Judy Clark, SPHR
July 2, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Nick-

Just wanted you to know that I am using your article as a final exam for my MBA students in a Current Issues in HR class. Their assignment is to write a defense of HR paper based on the objections and points you wrote. You have raised some intersting questions so I am looking forward to their interesting answers.

Judy

By Baffled & Befuddled
July 2, 2010 at 10:12 pm

This isn’t the first recession in which employers claim they can’t find qualified people during high unemployment. There almost seems to be an inverse relationship between the unemployment level and how loud companies shout about a dearth of good candidates. I’m not sure why, but my theory is that the qualification bar rises so high during bad times that only those able to walk on water can make the cut. Probably a combination of higher than usual fear of a suboptimal hire, and a strange conviction that the “perfect” candidate is somehow more likely to appear during hard times than good (from the ranks of the unemployed perhaps?).

By Nick Corcodilos
July 2, 2010 at 11:52 pm

@Baffled: I think the explanation is a lot simpler. During high unemployment, the job boards are awash with far more job hunters than usual. Tied to this sort of “recruiting” channel, HR encounters a staggering amount of “noise.” Unaccustomed to having to sort through so many applicants, HR freezes up, can’t make a choice, complains “the right candidate” is nowhwere to be found.

Headhunters encounter this from time to time. The headhunter presents a handful of very good candidates, but HR “wants to see more candidates.” The outcome is often bitter: Time is wasted, the best candidates disappear or become disillusioned with the employer, and HR “keeps looking.”

The fundamental problem, I think, is weak recruiting methods taken to an extreme, or the inability to make choices.

By Nick Corcodilos
July 2, 2010 at 11:52 pm

@Judy: I’d love to see those answers myself…

By TomG in TX
July 3, 2010 at 6:50 pm

I go to a job fair. I wait in line half an hour or more to speak with an HR rep from a company. I hand her my resume. She tells me to go to the company web site and apply for a job. I get a company-logo pen or notepad as a parting gift.

Hate is a strong word, but that is why I don’t care too much for most HR departments.

By Ray Saunders
July 4, 2010 at 12:17 am

When Personnel Departments became HR, it signaled a different way of looking at employees – as resources/expenses, no different from desks, staplers, infrastructure, etc. instead of seeing them as people. HR should work for the employees, not the stockholder. If employees aren’t treated well, productivity (and profits) decline. HR should handle issues of benefits, complaints, compliance, etc. Too often they interfere with first-line management and earn well-deserved contempt.

Companies which treat their employees with respect, compassion and trust are incredibly productive because workers will go above and beyond to get the job done. Crappy companies hide behind ‘HR Policy’ and workers respond by doing only enough to avoid being fired.

By Nick Corcodilos
July 4, 2010 at 3:17 pm

@Ray: That’s a good point – it’s all in the name. But no matter what it’s called, when an employee shows up to talk about a problem, HR’s duty is to the employer.

There’s a similar problem in the headhunting business: The headhunter is paid by the employer and is thus beholden to the client.

But headhunters and HR folks alike have a choice to make: Will they honor their first obligations and still look out for the interests of the candidate/employee, so as to build an exemplary record as a trusted go-between, no matter who is paying the bills?

That’s what I mean when I talk about “good” headhunters and “good” HR folks.

By Judy
July 4, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Ray-

I respectfully disagree with part of your post. HR is a management function that works best when its primary customers are managers and supervisors. Helping them be effective and appropriate in their interactions results in them establishing positive relationships with employees which creates productive and engaging workplaces. When HR is an employee advocate (except when a manager runs rogue) it triangulates the relationships creating victims (employees), persecutors (managers) and rescuers (HR) which rarely results in good outcomes. HR’s role is to help the organization manage risk, educate and assist managers at all levels, including executives, understand, respect, and appropriately utilize the creative energy and capability of its workforce. When it does that well, to coin a cliche, everyone wins.

By Nick Corcodilos
July 4, 2010 at 9:28 pm

@Judy:

“HR’s role is to help the organization manage risk, educate and assist managers at all levels, including executives, understand, respect, and appropriately utilize the creative energy and capability of its workforce.”

That’s a tall, all-ecompassing order. Do you think that as a corporate department HR pulls that of?

Maybe that’s too big a question. I’ll offer an example. Do you believe HR can help a manager understand and appropriately utilize the creative energy and capabilities of an electrical engineer who designs robotic control systems? (How does someone in HR do that?)

By Winston Lawrence
July 5, 2010 at 8:56 am

Hi Nick,
I read this over the weekend and couldn’t find anything wrong with your proposal. After thinking about it some more though I think that if the HR department didn’t exist companies would have to invent it anyway. The regulatory areas that you propose putting under the legal department (and I am including some of the compliance and required training tasks here as well) probably won’t work simply because company legal department’s aren’t in much better shape themselves.
Take a look at Microsoft currently selling their new ‘Kin’ phone with an ad advocating its use for stalkers – or Google stealing WiFi data – the same thing that has landed people in jail for in several widely publicized. You can continue through companies like HP, Dell, Enron, Marsh, Madoff etc etc.
No – While the typical corporate legal department may have no trouble handing you your head on a platter – it would be severely tasked in finding its own head with both hands. Handing the legal department HR duties as well – probably not a good idea. If you go down the rung to smaller companies – they may have retainers but do they even have legal departments? I agree with you on the HR departments – and placing most of the functions in other areas just not sure about the ‘legal’ 10-20% tasks that they do.

By Nick Corcodilos
July 5, 2010 at 11:11 am

@Winston: My suggestion is that a legal department and a finance department can serve as the backstop for some functions currently “handled” (I don’t think they really are) by HR. Ultimately, a business unit must be responsible for functions that require solid knowledge of its own business. The legal department sets the backdrop, but the business managers make the choices and decisions.

Consider how many people and businesses work with their lawyers. They ask the lawyer, “Can I do this legally?” The lawyer answers yes or no. That’s how organizations are destroyed. Any lawyer or accountant will admit, if pressed, that law and accounting are not sciences. There is no “answer” much of the time. Only intepretations. But people and businesses routinely ask their lawyers and accountants to take the next step and actually make choices and decisions. (This is also known, in management science, by the technical term “passing the buck.”)

The smart business asks its lawyer, “How can I do this legally?” This is a very different question. It puts the lawyers to work on HOW, not yes or no.

Alternatively, the business can and should ask, “What are the legal risks of doing X?”

Most of the time, there is no yes/no answer to be found in the law. Just an analysis by the lawyers (or accountants) about possible outcomes.

In the end, it’s the business unit manager that SHOULD make the choice and the decision. Not the lawyer.

Today, business unit managers too easily reliquish control of decision making to HR. This should not be so. In your example, HR has become the implementation arm of the legal department; and, often, HR itself serves as the interpreter of the law.

Legal, accounting, HR — all are overhead functions intended to provide advice and guidance to managers. Lazy managers permit themselves to abstain from making decisions, and instead accept the edicts of the overhead departments.

That’s how businesses fail.

By Inside Recruiter
July 6, 2010 at 4:59 am

Hey Nick. As head of an internal recruiting department that really does recruit, let me share a few frustrations with you.

Why do HR Recruiting departments ask you to apply online? Even if we take your resume, we are responsible for compliance in an audit. If the company is a federal contractor [OFCCP (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs)], you have to be able to show every individual that applied and why they weren’t (or were)selected. If you haven’t read about it, the govt is putting more funds toward auditing companies.

Why do even the good HR recruiting departments post online? Again, federal regulations requiring that a position be visible to a multitude of diverse candidates (I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek,but this is really the easiest way to comply).

It really is a fine line to walk as well as an extremely frustrating one – especially for those of us who are real recruiters and would rather be on the phone or out in public talking to candidates about who they are and what they can do for the company. No one enjoys using the applicant tracking system to create reports.

Let me agree with you about the frustration of wanting to “see more resumes.” Since I’m the HR department you speak of, let me just say that we consistently have this argument with hiring managers. If we have found the needle in the haystack, why look futher? I don’t get it either. I also get frustrated when my internal HR colleagues say, “but my client wants it.” Why would we pay internal people with a ‘consultant’ title big money to give the client whatever they ask for instead of taking the time to coach them on why it is not a good idea to leave the right candidate hanging while you see who else is out there?

Why do I stay in internal recruiting within HR?departments? Because I’m crazy enough to believe that people like me are needed in HR and eventually someone will appreciate my kind.

By Greg Robinette
July 6, 2010 at 8:02 am

Interesting discussion
I remember responding to first article 5 years ago. My response still holds true today.

Without defined measures that are tied to an organizations goals and plans HR functions frequently become self feeding eternal engines of cost. I agree with your points about the line of business manager being involved in the decisions but would consider HR, when utilized in a measurable manner, to be able to leverage their specific expertise in human capital (like there are financial experts in real capital, cost of goods, etc) to help an organization meet its mission.

I think that most managers who are effective are time constrained. Having the right team of experts, financial, legal and HCM working with them works to the organizations advantage. This is also not one size fits all. As a small to medium business owner I have found myself in the role of legal, financial, and HCM analyst/admin/etc. I have leased expertise in all these ares when i have needed it.

I always asked for specifics of what I was buying and was able to satisfy myself that my bottom line was increased in a measurable way by the investment in this rented HCM
.
My father, a senior FBI agent, taught me that the biggest problem people have is they fail to ask the right question. That initial misstep can cause problems throughout an organization. So I do not blame or say ‘I hate HR’, I say what question should HR be asked and directed to answer.

By Lucille
July 6, 2010 at 9:56 am

@Inside Recruiter -OK, I buy your argument. Auditing.
But that is not what Tom was really getting at. He was saying he was trying to make a personal contact at the company and stood in line and all he got was apply on line. He wanted to have a conversation with the HR person. He didn’t get it.

By Steve Amoia
July 6, 2010 at 10:10 am

It would be interesting to hear a response from the HR department of a professional sports team. It might put things into their proper perspective.

Does HR in that instance recruit and hire the talent or make it jump through hoops? Or is that left to managers and scouts who actually played and can accurately access athletic performance?

I once went for an interview with a company in Baltimore. After I met with the hiring authority and other staffers, I had a pleasant discussion with the HR manager. Her biggest concern was that I lived in Washington, D.C. (an hour away). So I posed a question, “Does the Baltimore Orioles only hire players originally from this city? How many players could they hire?”

She had no response which reinforced my position that the question was only a reason to reject me. Especially after one of the staffers told me I was a great fit for the job.

Corporate America does not know how to evaluate talent because it does empower the proper people with the task. Which doesn’t mean that HR personnel are incompetent or unprofessional. They are not given the proper tools and the recruitment task is not handled by those with the ability to make the best hiring decisions: Managers and staffers who know the job and what it takes to deliver it profitably.

By Peter Stevenson
July 6, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Dear Nick,
I have a lot to say on this in point by point fashion. BUT the point I agree most with you is:
“Unless you’re one of the handful of lucky companies that has internal recruiters who get out from behind their computer screens and actually go out into the world and seek, find, seduce, cajole, and otherwise steal good workers, your HR department is costing you not only money — but your lifeblood. While critical, profit-producing jobs go undone — and HR’s performance goes unmeasured — your HR execs are telling the world there’s a “talent shortage” while we’re experiencing the greatest glut of unemployed, highly-educated and skilled workers in history.”

Recruiters need to “unlearn” everything thing they were taught in university about recruiting (if that seperate subject was ever brought up), and study the subject of “sales”, which is not taught in universities. And salespeople are evaluated by measurable results.
Peter Stevenson

By Don Harkness
July 6, 2010 at 1:37 pm

I’d like to get back to the original question. “Why HR”? (Department)
What we’re talking about is management & what is management is responsible for is managing function, time & money and leading the people who affect it. If a company could count on their purpose in life being delivered exactly as envisioned, when expected, hitting planned costs by the right number of right people, you wouldn’t need managers. A monkey could do it.
Thus all of the points 1-7 outlined are really the job of line managers and in a perfect world they would do it to a high and consistent degree across a company… and therefore no HR Department should be needed. HR functions wouldn’t disappear, they’d simply be distributed or decentralized to their rightful owners….managers
The same point can be make about other responsibilities e.g. finance, Quality, Project management and others.
But it’s not a perfect world and companies have learned usually the hard way that checks and balances or “help” is needed in the management ranks to ensure these responsibilities are met
So a higher power created Staff Organizations e.g. HR in this case…as Judy pointed out to help, to assist etc. And most definitely a better example is when it comes to money management e.g. Finance Departments exist. No one in their right mind doesn’t follow the money trail.
But there’s a fine line between help and enabling. Too much help isn’t help but rather counterproductive, it enables bad habits to take root, and grow, and responsibilities to blur and weaken.
I was “brought up” in QA a vocation to which one can direct the same question “why QA?”. Fortunately very early a VP made a wise point which I took to heart. You need to run your operation with a goal to put yourself out of business.
Nick’s point about the effective HR orgs that embed themselves I suspect knowingly or not are applying that goal, they are trying to do their job so well, to instill HR practices so deep into the management team that at best they need only to coach or consult, not to do the HR work. They do not allow the management team to abdicate their HR responsibilities to them and therefore cultivate a very people savvy management team, including the recruiting aspects that they only need to guide.
Remember, what I said is a goal, it’s something to strive for. But in QA no matter how close you got to building QA savvy management teams you never eliminated QA. You could never get there for a lot of reasons, and I’m sure it’s likewise with HR. But you could reach maximum impact with minimal investment effected by some well placed specialists inside the development teams that “got it” .
Again it’s not an ideal world including my aforementioned oversimplification. There’s another aspect in play, that’s called Executive management. They have to insist on this goal, hold their managers accountable, fund them accordingly so they have the time to properly manage including all the load they could pawn off to staff organizations, and avoid developing staff organizations that become enabling crutches instead of expert coaches
With the right exec backing in concert with the right kind of HR thinking, you can have an effective and relatively small HR that doesn’t dictate TO managers but rather gets desired results THROUGH managers
As to the hate aspect. You find that present where management has created their own monster. Nature abhors a vacuum. They off loaded HR work to a department which doesn’t see itself as putting itself out of business, but building their own space in which they call the shots. It’s call power. And when exercised with a heavy hand, as when turf is protected, it breeds hate.

By Judy Clark, SPHR
July 6, 2010 at 4:01 pm

I am responding to Don Harkness’ response…I agree..sometimes I think we criticize HR for failings that really belong to management. If management doesn’t appropriately scope HR’s responsibilities and roles, that is a problem with management. HR should work to educate management about the appropriate role it can play, but all too often management is looking for a scapegoat and turns HR into a “cop” role and then everyone can hate it.

By Robert O'Brien
July 6, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Nick wrote: “The best HR people I know find ways to embed themselves into business units. They become part of a business team.”

That’s a good start. Actually, HR should be a “team” itself rather than a department or a permanent part of an organization’s bureaucracy, drawing its staff on a temporary basis from all of the organization’s functional units.

As pointed out in the original “Why We Hate HR” article and several of the responses, career HR-types tend to be little more than administrators, regardless of their perceived roles, ensuring that company policies and governmental regulations are followed, and that salaries are kept within prescribed boundaries. By and large, they have no functional experience in their companies’ actual activities — sales, marketing, finance, accounting, operations, engineering, etc.

Consequently, HR becomes as insular as those various functions. Very little cross-fertilization of ideas takes place. Myths of self-grandiosity developed within one organization are allowed to grow, and ill-founded opinions of other internal organizations are similarly perpetuated.

A better approach is to staff HR with representatives from each of the operating units and staffs that actually hire people and put them to work doing the company’s business. These representatives can handle their staffs’ and business units’ HR tasks for one to two years, and then be rotated back to their home organizations for their next station in their careers.

They will be more knowledgeable of the actual work performed and thus be in a better position to discuss job and career issues with candidates. Their daily interaction with representatives from other staffs and business units will expose shortcomings and stand-out procedures and personnel among the various units, as well as salary anomalies. (And if you haven’t yet encountered it, the prevalence of sub-standard salaries in various functional departments being enforced by HR people with over-inflated egos and even more highly inflated salaries is staggering.)

Another area that needs to be attacked on this front is academia. Organizational behavior/development/dynamics certainly needs to be a part of any business curriculum, whether at the undergraduate or graduate level. But degrees in “Human Resources Management” should be eliminated.

Someone with a degree in “Human Resources Management” with 20 years experience in an organization has no more HR experience than anyone else who has worked for 20 or more years. WE ALL HAVE HR EXPERIENCE, whether gathered while working in HR, working elsewhere within the organization, or going through the job-search process. The only edge the career HR people have is the inside knowledge of salary structure and names of actual hiring managers, and that information is frequently as difficult to obtain if you’re working for a company as it is if you’re inquiring from the outside.

Academia also needs to subordinate the role of HR in companies that recruit on-campus. While it might be advantageous for a recruiting company to have HR coordinate interview schedules among the schools it targets and among the staffs that will be recruiting at any given institution, the schools themselves need to inform those firms that the interviews must be conducted by functional people — field sales reps, brand managers, corporate accountants and financial analysts, engineers and systems professionals, etc. — and NOT by career HR-types with no functional experience themselves.

The original “Why We Hate HR” article was certainly more thought-provoking than the recent follow-up. But Nick’s question of “Why HR” is one that I’ve been asking for years. And even if my recommendations are quickly and widely embraced, it will still take at least five years to see any concrete results. Unfortunately, in modern management’s quest for quick and easy solutions — and a disposition toward a management “fad of the month” — that’s too long.

Robert O’Brien

By Scott
July 6, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Here are some ways in which HR has been helpful.
Dealing with problem employees. My companies have had specific guidelines, but happily most managers aren’t going to have to deal with these but once. HR helped me navigate through the process, successfully.
Doing searches. I defined the terms, and I worked with the results to refine them, but I was happy to have someone actually run the system for me, and produce resumes, given that people don’t take your advice and call me directly.
Recruiting paperwork. In my field hiring managers make a lot more than HR people, so it only makes sense that the HR folks send out the invitations and such. It would good if they would bug me to follow up to those who didn’t get it. We don’t do a very good job on that.
I’m lucky that in my field no HR person would even pretend to be able to evaluate a candidate. That means that technical people go out there looking, not HR.

By Inside Recruiter
July 6, 2010 at 10:41 pm

To By Lucille

I agree it would be great if people walking in the doors of a company could speak to someone. But that’s not a recruiting issue; it is a management issue. Where do you want to put your resources? To do this, you have to have staff available to drop what they are doing to meet with the walk-in. Companies who staff at levels to handle this high touch are few and far between.

What did we do? We figured out that our walk-ins were for a certain segment of our jobs and had a plan to have monthly information sessions anyone could attend – after hours when it was convenient for candidates.

Recruiting Roundtable (part of Corporate Leadership Council) did research showing that since 2005, Recruiting departments workload has increased while budgets have decreased. This directly impacts the amount of time a recruiter can spend with candidates.

By the way…I’m not defending. I too am frustrated with HR roadblocks with respect to recruiting. I’m coming from the perspective of constraints facing a team that is qualified to do it right and trying to do it right.

Cheers.

By Don Harkness
July 7, 2010 at 10:23 am

To Robert O’ Brian’s point.
I think he’s on the right track on how to “embed”. The question is what’s easier? to take an HR professional and embed them inside an operating unit, and in so doing by osmosis and heavy exposure, position them to learn that unit’s business….
or take someone inside the team who by definition intimately knows that unit’s business and players & assign them an HR role(s? As Robert & I pointed out anyone in management is in the HR business, it goes with the territory.
I can share a real example of what Robert has suggested which & I think it worked great.
It involved recruiting in a massive growth scenario. When exec mgmt pressed the start button, HR’s recruiting machine was instantly overwhelmed and the reaction time was way behind the curve & no one wanted to wait for them to ramp up.
So what the Director’s did, was to move the recruiting from HR “in house” and did the bulk of the work themselves, using our own resources. Each annointed one of their senior engineers or managers as recruiting champions to represent their interests.
I was made the recruiting champion for my Director. As such he gave me all the reqs (100+) over a 12 month period and I drove the recruiting for him. (not instead of my “day job” as QA Manager but in addition to it) I hired a temp to do candidate travel arrangements, schedule our team’s interviews etc. And I’d harangue, nudge, facilitate with my peers to keep everyone on track. Sr Mgmt in concert gave recruiting a high priority & tracked it almost by the minute.
This hit very close to Robert’s vision as I knew our organization’s business, and what each department did and what kind of people they wanted & needed. I knew the chemistry, the kind of people my boss wanted and ditto for each of his managers and could align our needs to a degree an outside HR person couldn’t match, at least very quickly. It worked great.
In concert every other Directorate was doing likewise.
We did about 90% of what traditionally was done by HR recruiters. They contributed to closing e.g. handling equity which we couldn’t see (start up bonuses, stock options, base pay etc) and effecting legal/binding offers.
We recruited on site mostly but were very active in the field, job fairs, confidential invitations, flying to a candidates home turf if they couldn’t discreetly come down & see us etc. But the key was a candidate was directly pipelined into the organization from the get-go dealing with someone who was empowered to make recruiting & hiring decisions with no middle people.
In sum, the process moved like lightening compared to the traditional process.
Embedding can work very well

By Volkswagen
July 7, 2010 at 11:56 am

Nick,

First I want to commend you, and thank you, for acknowledging the existence of “some” legitimate HR teams who actually do contribute to their employer’s
bottome line.

My experience includes over 20 years in the “headhunter” industry, working with 4 different recruiting firms. Three of these firms were always creating legal and/or integrity issues for themselves with their dishonest and, yes, illegal ways of doing business. Only one of these firms would I ever work for again, or even trust with my resume.

Recent years I have been in corporate recruiting and working as one of 5 in an HR department that IS an effective and active team in contributing to our employer’s success.

With this acknowledgment this blog has a stronger sense of credibility (at least for me).

And, second, Judy . . . I would love to see the results of your students’ exams. Hope you can find an appropriate way to make this information available to us.

And, third, thank you all for your contributions on this blog. Your thoughts help us all grow in our effectiveness in the HR side of business.

By Peter Stevenson
July 7, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Re: Robert O’Brian’s Post.

Yes – This is the attitude and mind set that gets results in HR.
Unfortunately Robert’s team had to by-pass HR to get the job done. And this is how HR departments will eventually disappear as part of corporations, in the decades to come.
I’d like to see what is coming up next in this natural evolution that is going to hit the world of HR.

By Lucille
July 8, 2010 at 8:37 am

@Inside Recruiter – Thanks for the explanation. I am cheered.

By Lisamba09
July 9, 2010 at 11:38 am

WHY HR?
great question. I truly believe that if leadership really knew the unprofessionalism that is occurring, there would be a massive reorganization. I am currently employed in a job I despise and need to get out of(Month #5 of resumes sent out) and have been privy to all sorts of shenanigans.

Examples:
Potential Job #1: HR is completely enamored with herself and the power she has.Cannot stop talking about how ‘busy’ she is and how ‘great’ things are going right now (seriously) , after setting up a time to prescreen me I call and she says “oh, can we talk later, I have a new hire sitting in the lobby”. Reschedule for later. Talk later, she then says “well, this is going to take too long, how about I just send you a list of questions the hiring manager wants answered?”. As you can imagine, this type of crap went on for over two weeks before I stopped calling entirely.

Potential Job #2: HR contacts me from a reputable company, we set up interview, he says (yes it is a HE)directions will be emailed. After 2.5 days of calling/leaving messages that I have not received the directions and I have no idea where I am going, he emails me. I lost interest real fast.

Potential Job #3: Set up interview with HR after I had cleared my schedule and rearranged two other appointments. Five hours before the interview (over an hour drive away), I get an email stating it needs to be rescheduled for the following week (thank god I was reading my email).

I could keep going on, buy why?
HR is non-value added, unprofessional, self-entitled and rude. HR business departments could be run more efficiently by monkeys.

By Anonomous
July 9, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Sorry to post anonymously, although my training isn’t in HR, I work in HR and would hate to offend my peers – they are good people but they know not what they do.

I can attest to the fact that staffing agents are more interested in streamlining the processes than they are about selecting the right candidates. Decisions are made based on things like how efficiently they can sort through applications, how soon they can get stakeholders together in the same room for an interview, how quickly they can make a hiring decision, etc. I know these things are necessary tasks, but they do a victory dance for achieving this minutia instead of focusing on the quality of talent they attract and understanding a basic business need and how it was filled. Makes me completely bug nuts.

And that’s only one area of HR; the same things apply to other HR functions. In my experience HR folks are operational when they need to be visionary. I agree with Nick, we need various departments like legal and finances to become experts in HR matters but who needs another layer of bureaucracy? What happens is that no one takes responsibility.

We are living in an age of human capital, HR should be on the cutting edge. Instead they are holding everyone back with red tape.

By Nick Corcodilos
July 9, 2010 at 10:42 pm

@Inside Recruiter: Maybe it’s time for the HR profession to launch an effort to change the law. When the audit function interferes with sound recruiting practices, then something is wrong. Crying that “the law requires us to waste a lot of time” doesn’t fix the problem.

But my main concern is with one comment you made: “you have to be able to show [to the auditors] every individual that applied and why they weren’t (or were)selected.”

This statement betrays a dirty little secret in HR: HR does NOT show to the rejected applicants themselves “why they weren’t selected.”

HR routinely refuses to disclose the reason a candidate was not hired, even when the applicant requests an explanation. Do you see the problem with this? It drives people nuts, and it should, and that’s “Why they hate HR.”

I can’t argue with them, although I think you make some important points about the constraints HR operates under.

Maybe if we got rid of HR, the constraints would be revealed for the nonsense they are. Government interferes far too much with the personal judgments that must be made in the hiring process.

By Nick Corcodilos
July 9, 2010 at 10:45 pm

@Robert O’Brien: You bowled me over with your suggestion: “That’s a good start. Actually, HR should be a ‘team’ itself rather than a department or a permanent part of an organization’s bureaucracy, drawing its staff on a temporary basis from all of the organization’s functional units.”

Does anyone know of a company that’s tried this? What an idea – worth more discussion.

By Nick Corcodilos
July 9, 2010 at 10:53 pm

@Inside Recruiter (by the way, I’m not attacking, I’m just really mystified, and I thank you for bringing some of these facts to light):

“Recruiting Roundtable (part of Corporate Leadership Council) did research showing that since 2005, Recruiting departments workload has increased while budgets have decreased. This directly impacts the amount of time a recruiter can spend with candidates.”

Please consider what you said. Recruiters don’t have much time to spend with candidates.

I’ll anticipate your explanation: They are too busy with other matters, like reporting, compliance, etc. I understand.

All this says to me is that my long-time claim that America’s Employment System is broken is more true than ever.

Recruiters don’t have time to talk to candidates.

Consider: American business instituted HR and created internal recruiters… why??? Because managers don’t have time to recruit and talk to candidates…

I rest my case. HR may be screwed up, but the bigger indictment is of business in general. “People are our most important asset” — but we don’t have time to work with that “asset.”

Gimme a break. This is one sick puppy.

There’s another example of this very same problem. Talk to sales people in a big company. They will tell you… they have so many overhead and reporting tasks to do that… they don’t have time to talk to prospects and to go close new deals.

(Daddy, are we there yet? When are we gonna BE there??)

By Nick Corcodilos
July 9, 2010 at 11:01 pm

@Anonomous: “I can attest to the fact that staffing agents are more interested in streamlining the processes than they are about selecting the right candidates.”

You’re terrifying me. But I’m not surprised.

Hey Volkswagen (love the name!), you have your work cut out for you! ;-) Those in HR who are trying to change the system need to work faster and to be more vocal. This thing is broken and it’s already crashing.

Evidence of the crash: I mentioned it in my post. HR is crying about talent shortages while we’re in the middle of the biggest glut of unemployed talented people in decades. As Inside Recruiter has revealed, the problem is that recruiters don’t have time to talk to candidates.

Where is this leading American business? I think over the cliff.

By Suzanne
July 16, 2010 at 1:08 pm

To Robert O’Brien: “Myths of self-grandiosity developed within one organization are allowed to grow, and ill-founded opinions of other internal organizations are similarly perpetuated.”

Requesting permission to put this on a sandwich board and walk around every corporate headquarters throughout the land!

Nick,
Amen, the economy (at least as we know it) will never recover until we can unclog the pipeline of mediocrity!

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