HR earns its keep?

Stuart, you’re kidding, right? You obviously have quite a bit of baggage where HR is concerned. My colleague and I have a bit of a different view. While we certainly don’t promote pay for non-performance, your editorial (Issue 108, 11 July 2006, p3) is unfair in that you blame HR for employees walking out the door, without considering

Stuart, you’re kidding, right? You obviously have quite a bit of baggage where HR is concerned. My colleague and I have a bit of a different view. While we certainly don’t promote pay for non-performance, your editorial, ‘Laughing all the way to the bank’ (Issue 108, 11 July 2006, p3), is unfair in that you blame HR for employees walking out the door, without considering:

1. People very often leave because of dissatisfaction with their manager (we’d be so bold as to state that not everyone works for an HR manager).

2. It’s a buyer’s market out there, and people in their 30’s and particularly 20’s are not reluctant to job hop. In “our day”, resumés that had many jobs with short tenure were not favourably regarded, whereas today such activity is seen as someone “taking charge of their career and professional/personal development”. Pity the person in the job market today who has been in the same company for 18 years, albeit with several promotions under her belt.

3. While we can’t disagree that some HR departments may be “peddlers of meaningless company values and fluffy-sounding platitudes”, how about acknowledging that many companies’ values are seen as meaningless because senior management in general (starting from the CEO) fail to walk the talk? Culture begins at the top, and if that’s not happening then HR trying to promote anything will be seen as nothing more than flapping of the gums.

4. Many of the obstacles that HR is perceived as putting in the way of “that deserved pay rise, that coveted training course or an increased budget for resources” may really be placed there by corporate level management whose arms are too short to reach their pockets because that would be akin to taking food out of the mouths of the shareholders (that is, the people who invest in the company, not the employees who of course have nothing invested in the company). Don’t shoot the messenger.

So HR is getting 7.6 per cent pay rises while the rest of you are only getting only 6 per cent? Well whoop-de-do! That doesn’t even begin to compare with the pay rises the IT industry gave itself by scaring people senseless with the Y2K non-event, nor what the accounting/finance profession has scored over the past several years what with all those nasty corporate scandals they and their CEOs engineered. They’re all getting paid quite handsomely to clean up the messes they helped to create. Don’t even get us started on WorkChoices or OHS regulations and the legal profession.

The fact that HR professionals are commanding a bit more money these days (perhaps finally bringing them in line with their peers in other functional areas?) is because forward-thinking companies see the connection between people and profits, and know that an HR strategy aligned with the business strategy is imperative if they are to remain profitable in the face of increased competition, prolific industry and government regulation, rising costs and decreasing margins. I guess CEO’s wouldn’t.

Name and company details withheld

Well, your spray over the entire HR population certainly has had tongues wagging. Many of my HR clients wholeheartedly agreed with your rather gross generalisations, while many more were offended and upset by them. I suppose that is the purpose of an opinion, and you sound like you have had what is also a very common perception – rightly or wrongly.

Myself, I observe a generation of young, smart, savvy HR people who are stifled by many of their HR bosses. I myself had a HR boss who, when I challenged him on how little we were executing, said, “My job is to write a few policies, and look out the window the rest of the time.”

I left to join a consulting practice. Good luck with the wreckage. You have certainly stirred up a hornet’s nest, but at least you have had the courage to say what many business people think. In our business a compliment is when a client says, “Oh, you are so different to most HR people I have met.”

Name and company details withheld

A note on the AMA

You may like to balance the article, ‘Warning on faking certified sickies’ (Issue 109, 25 July 2006, p1) by approaching the AMA and asking why, when their members issue sick leave certificates:

They are mostly impossible to read.

The employee is “sick” or suffering “illness” with no further detail. I am sure that stating ‘cold’, ‘flu’ or viral infection’ does not convene any privacy legislation.

Victorian businesses involved in food handling are required to ensure that all employees with infections that can be conveyed to food are not employed as food handlers until they are no longer infected (as declared by a registered medical practitioner). Doctors, in my experience, will not forward this information (the privacy thing) and therefore the business cannot utilise the employee in a food handling capacity, that is, no job.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Ken Whitehead

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