18 Things I Wish We Would STOP Doing in Human Resources…

by Alan Collins

I’m going to rant in this article so be prepared.

If we want to improve both the impact of HR and the success of the organizations we support, we must put our foot down and STOP doing some things.

Below is my list of 18 things that I think are just plain asinine. Feel free to add your own to the list by clicking HERE.

1.  Let’s stop accepting garbage in HR. Human Resources cannot be where people go when they’re are re-assigned when they’ve failed everywhere else. Let’s start demanding the absolute best and the brightest in our function, just like everyone else.

2.  Let’s stop cutting the “workers” before cutting the “work itself” and then pretending we’ve improved productivity. Sure, it’s looks great on the P&L.  Wall Street loves that we’ve cut heads. But have we really improved the organization when 30 “survivors” are doing the work that 50 FTE’s used to do and are suffering in silence and so frustrated they’re suicidal.

3.  Let’s stop creating workarounds for bad managers. Let’s start expecting them to behave like paid professional leaders.  Let’s stop giving them hall passes to avoid giving performance reviews, adequate feedback or having candid career discussions with their direct reports.  Our job is to help our companies work in the best way possible.  We shouldn’t have to develop policies to make up for “managerial malpractice.”  If they can’t or won’t manage effectively, let’s follow the medical profession model and pull their “license” to manage anyone, forever!

4.  Let’s stop using words like “human capital.” (I admit, I’m guilty of this myself, so I take the pledge.)  Let’s start putting the “human” back in Human Resources where it belongs.  Sure, we need to know the business and have financial intelligence.  But we can’t TREAT people like they’re numbers in a Power Point presentation or “human capital” that can be sold off like a stock that’s in free fall.   They’re people, like you and me, with families, fears and aspirations for the future.  And for most of their day, they choose to invest their time and energy in our organizations.  Let’s remind ourselves every day that our unique contribution to the organization’s success is all about people.

5.  Let’s cut the HR and OD jargon, psychobabble and buzzwords — and say things so your grandmother can understand it. Let’s start using plain-speak.  Put a kabosh to the acronyms, and approach every speech, every email, every presentation as an opportunity to show how brilliant you are using your own words and language! Imagine that your grandmother is in the audience. Naturally, she is a very intelligent woman since she has a grandson/daughter like you as an HR professional.  Do you think she understands: organization effectiveness, intellectual capital, rightsizing, core competencies, bandwidth, and my all-time favorite: being strategic. How many regular folks do you communicate with that might be the same as your grandmom?

6.  Let’s stop taking charge of running the holiday party. I’m not suggesting that you be scrooge.  But why should you be the social secretary all the time.  You have a real job with real deliverables.  Let someone else handle it like Finance or Sales.  It’s their turn.

7.  Let’s stop pretending we’re shocked when employees unionize. When you work employees 13 days on and one off; then turn around and lay them off; cut their pay; reduce their benefits; then demand their total loyalty and commitment in an environment populated with Nazi supervisors…you can’t be surprised when they reach out for a little third party representation.

8.  Let’s stop complaining about the lack of HR jobs. Stand in the bright lights where recruiters and headhunters can find you.  They seldom search in the dark alleys.  Join SHRM and the chapter in your city. Get access to every HR directory you can find. Ask yourself who would I call first if I were a recruiter looking for me.  Make that person yourself, your friend and or a referral.

9.  Let’s stop trying to network with our laptops. All relationships have flesh and blood…not keys and a screen.  Linkedin is the the greatest tool ever created for professional networking…I get it and believe in it…but it’s just a tool….you’ve got to get out and meet people.

10.  Let’s stop denying ourselves the chance for true greatness in HR. You don’t have to aspire to the HR C-suite or make millions in base salary in a Fortune 50 company to achieve greatness in HR.   Figure out what greatness means for you.  It’s one of the single most empowering steps you can take in your HR career.  There is no ONE way to achieve greatness in HR except to find a way to be spending your time doing what creates enjoyment in you and others. Do what you’re good at – what you’re passionate about.  And, don’t think that the only way to progress is up.  Just close your eyes and picture what would make you the most happy.  Figure out all the details, then work towards it as a first priority.

11.  Let’s stop working everyday and becoming more and more irrelevant. According to Dave Ulrich, there are six HR leader competencies critical for thriving in today’s economy.  If you don’t master them, you’re Fred Flintstone in a George Jetson world.  They are bulleted below.  Are these in your playbook?  If not, every single day they’re aren’t, you’re falling farther and farther behind.

12.  Let’s stop pretending that everyone wants to scale up the ladder. When many employees look up they see 100-hour weeks, meeting overload, blackberries on nightstands, and no time for friends and family.  And it’s not only women who are saying no to the ladder up; men are as well.  Many are opting to customize success for themselves, not climb someone else rungs.  Do we have any solutions for this as HR leaders?

13.  Let’s stop thinking that office politics is about backstabbing. The people who are the most successful at office politics tend to be genuinely pretty cool and nice.  Office politics is about helping people to get what they want. This means you have to take the time to listen, figure out what someone cares about, and then think about how you can help him or her to get it.  It does require having your ears open for when you can help. If you do this, you don’t have to trample over people or manipulate them. Your genuine, authentic caring will inspire people to want to help you when you need it.

14.  Let’s stop thinking that doing good work alone is good enough. For one thing, no one knows what the heck you’re doing in your office or cube if you’re not telling them. So when you do good work, let people know.  It is not crazy to toot your own horn–it’s crazy to think someone is going to take the trumpet out of your hands and do it for you.  It’s one of the Unwritten HR Rules.

15.  Let stop thinking that all you need is a good resume. You DO need a good resume but only ten percent of HR jobs come from sending a blind resume. Most people get jobs by leveraging their network. Once you have a connection, the person looks at your resume to make sure there are no red flags. So you need a competent resume and an excellent network. This means you should stop stressing about which verb to use on the second line of your fifth job. Go talk to someone instead.

16.  Let’s stop promoting people to HR leadership roles just because they are technically competent. Sallie may be the greatest recruiter and talent acquisition specialist on earth.  That’s not a reason – by itself – to promote her into a role where she manages a team of thirteen other recruiters.  If all she ever wanted to do was to do her job well and make a little more money in the process…reward her.  Don’t force her to lead a team, which she has no interest in and is killing her slowly.  Solution: Promote people in the organization that have the technical knowledge AND have shown both the potential and interest in leading.

17.  Let’s stop allowing butt-awful leaders to lead teams. Some managers in leadership roles are mean, surly, rude, offensive, and specialize in striking fear into the hearts of the team members.  That’s great if you’re Lex Luthor or some super-villian in a comic book – but not if you’re a paid professional leader.  Why is this allowed?  The answer is always either “they get results”, or “they have been here a long time”.   In today’s competitive organizations, this is not acceptable anymore.  The days of crime bosses are over.  Let’s put our foot down and work with our organizations to require that all leaders lead with influence, clear expectations and inspiration…while still holding their people accountable.   Let’s stop sending the mixed message:  “It’s okay for managers to treat you like scum, but we value you.”  Yeah, right.

18.  Let’s stop allowing the top executives of the company to think that they don’t need development. In many companies, I hear: “Yes, let’s do diversity and inclusion training, but our Vice Presidents don’t need to attend.” Why not? “Well, they don’t feel that they need training and if they did, it would be an admission that they have skills they need to work on.”  In many organizations, attending training is viewed as a sign of weakness. What the heck is going on here? Just because someone attends training, they’re weak?  Shouldn’t the organization’s commitment to development be viewed as a strong point?  Arrogance and ego are robbing executives of development that they need.  The CEO must model a dedication to development and mandate that every executive get training and development annually.  When the rest of the organization sees that executives are committed to development, then they’ll fall in line too.

Along these lines, there’s a related story about W. Edwards Deming.  Deming was asked by the CEO of a major steel company to address his top one hundred executives on the requirements of implementing a total quality program company-wide.  He was introduced by the CEO himself, who extolled Demings’s credentials with lavish conviction.  As Deming approached the podium to a thunderous applause, he noticed the CEO tip toeing towards the exit of the conference room.  In his 80’s at this time, Deming in a booming voice, remarked for everyone to hear:  “If this isn’t important to you, it’s not important to me!”  The CEO, startled, returned to his seat and remained there for the rest of the presentation.

Deming understood that to implement a successful quality program — like any major company-wide change initiative — it requires the active engagement and strong sponsorship from the top.  Senior leaders can’t abdicate, delegate their sponsorship or fail to participate.    People need to see their leaders intimately involved also.

The same is true with company-wide talent development initiatives.

As I look over most of these ideas, while most may not breakthrough ideas, all of them are practices we should end…immediately.

What do you think?

Feel free to share your feedback and additional thoughts on this article by clicking HERE.

Want more brutally candid HR ideas and strategies…this time for helping you advance your HR career?   Then, pick up: UNWRITTEN HR RULES: 21 Secrets For Attaining Awesome Career Success in Human Resources (pictured left).  If you’d like to download TWO FREE CHAPTERS to preview immediately, you can do that also by clicking here.

About the Author:  Alan Collins was formerly Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses. He is now President of Success in HR, Inc. and the author of  “Unwritten HR Rules”  and three other HR best sellers.

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76 Responses to “18 Things I Wish We Would STOP Doing in Human Resources…”

  1. Lori Grane Says:

    This is an excellent article. I have been out of work for the past two months and have had the opportunity to go to functions and meet people, continue learning and reflect on my last position. #3 is big – with managers who should not be doing the job in place and not being held accountable the company is killing themselves. #10 being able to figure out what makes you happy so you can help others. Nothing like a happy person to help others learn and feel safe. #14 I have never been a horn tooter but I am going to learn. Even the employee who is not the best gets more recognition because they are constantly tooting their horns. #16 promoting people into positions because they are there and it makes life easier is the best way to bring down a company. #18 I don’t know how we will ever get the top executives involved in training. There is one company that I have found that has succeeded in this and it is Nemour’s. What an awesome culture they have created.

    This is a great thought provoking article. Great job Alan.

  2. Leslie DeMerville Says:

    Julianne:

    I totally agree with you, and would relish the opportunity to work for a company whose CEO recognizes, respects and values HR. CEO’s with these qualities and attributes are a rare commodity.

    Leslie DeMerville, BSc, MSc…Labor Rels

  3. Kathy Sanberry Says:

    Things I am sick of hearing from HR:
    1. The inferiority complex many have because they apparently don’t feel they get the respect they deserve. I have never experienced this where I have worked – am I just lucky?
    2. That HR needs to stop being about compliance and policies and enforcement. People, one of our biggest responsibilities in the organization is RISK MITIGATION. Have you been paying attention? There are liability land mines out there everywhere and if you aren’t working hard to make sure you are on top of compliance for your organization, you are likely to get a very unpleasant surprise one of these days. And yes, this requires policies that are enforced and I will tell you it keeps me up at night worrying about all the potential vulnerabilities that might exist if I am not vigilant enough.
    3. That HR needs to get out of the office. Yes, it’s nice for employees to run into me from time to time rather than just get emails from me and I make sure that happens. However, I have an obligation between the hours of 8:00 am and 5:00 pm to be available to managers and employees who need to speak to me. If I’m not at my desk, all they get is my voicemail. (Or an empty chair if they show up in person.)
    4. HR jargon, as #5 says. And ranting about how HR needs to become a strategic business partner, etc., etc., etc. If you are in the senior HR position in your company and you aren’t part of the senior management team, and part of the strategic planning and decision-making process, then you are working for the wrong company. This is the 21st century. Any company that thinks they can function without HR as part of their senior management team is behind the times. Either that, or you need to take a good look at yourself, because they are excluding you for a reason. And by the way, #11 completely conflicts with #5. Those 6 critical competencies for an HR leader are complete drivel. I’d like to know who actually understands them. No one. Because they aren’t saying anything real.
    There are probably more, but those are the top four. If you read enough commentary on LinkedIn and elsewhere, you will see these common themes over and over again. Oh, and also, HR people have terrible grammar.

  4. Alan Says:

    Wow – Excellent points Kathy – thanks for sharing!

    Alan

  5. Neil Schermitzler, SPHR Says:

    Sorry if some of this is redundant..

    1. Stop saying HR needs to be “at the table” –just go in the room with the table and sit down!
    2. Stop coming up with and using meaningless terms, e.g.”talent management” etc.
    3. If HR wants to not be thought of “less than” then become “more than.”
    4. Lower level HR staff MUST know the business they work in adn how business works

  6. Ed Daniels Says:

    Neil and Kathy – excellent, excellent points. I am so tired of hearing human resources people complaining about not getting a “seat at the table” and dreaming of this better world when they get there. Ask those at the table how they got there – by doing a great job at the work in the trenches and proving the worth of themselves and their function. If your CEO/President doesn’t recognize the value of human resources then look at your deficiencies, not his or hers.
    Really, stop the “jargon” with the halt of proliferation of meaningless and complex new titles. It’s a human resources thing that those outside the function chuckle at. Sorry “strategic human resources business partners”, but would it not be inherent in any job to be part of the business? Putting in the title doesn’t make it so. How about “marketing business partner”, “quality assurance business partner”, “finance business partner”? See how absurd those sound? Sort of like “contingent talent acquisition specialist”. “Human Resources” was chosen to differentiate us from “animal handlers” or “zoo keepers” by those angry that “Personnel” didn’t have a seat at the table. Don’t flee from the name of the function or the job title – build credibility in it.

  7. Keith Stokes Says:

    I’ve seen this movie before. If I didn’t know better I’d say “you had me at lets stop,”but since I do I’d say, “Show me the Money”…and the organization actively in gauged in this position. A better position would be to secure buy in for corporate cultural change buy delivering Matrices and benchmarks that demonstrate Return on Investment.

  8. Crystal Cook Says:

    Bulls eye!!!!! This is phenomenal! The ones that stick out the most to me are #’s 1,3,5, 16,17 and 18. This article is right on time for me. It gives me reassurance that there is at least one (or two) other person(s) in the world of HR that shares my philosophy on the HR catastrophe. Ms. Sanberry, I couldn’t agree with you more. On the grammar issue though, it seems to not only be HR folks but supposedly educated folks in general. It makes me wonder how did they get a college degree if they can’t properly formulate a sentence or spell a word correctly. Typing fast and missing a word is bad enough but to outright post something without proofreading it is quite ridiculous indeed.

  9. Holly Brock-Cohn Says:

    having spent my entire career in the public sector as an HR director this is fascinating to read. I know the private sector world often views the public sector as lazy, slow and behind the times but given what I am reading maybe more attention should be paid to the public sector. we are not perfect and many people don’t understand what we do. part of my job is reminding people of how much trouble we can get into by not doing our job I can cost a city millions if I mess up. we also do evaluations religiously, put people on performance improvement plans as needed to get people doing what they are supposed to. we also do internal surveys to ask employees what is going well and what isn’t. more and more cities are implementing exercise programs with monetary rewards for people who lose weight, and we recognize success with annual get togethers and awards of some kind. along with length of servcies recognition. of course most of our recruitments are handled by HR as well, why always use outside recruiters when your hr staff can recruit just as well, put together interview panels, questions etc. Last i meet regularly with other managers, I am their business partner and my job is to make sure they have the tools, resources etc. they need to do their job which is helping the residents of the city.

  10. Mark Engelbrecht Says:

    There is much to learn from Mr. Collins and other HR thinkers. Here is my small contribution. HR does not generally attract the smart folks, which I would like to change. While I respect those who come out of the graduate-level Human Resources/Labor Relations Schools at Cornell, Michigan State, Illinois, and other selected programs, the brightest students at the best B-schools generally do not focus on HR. Secondly, the percent of those in HR who had undergraduate degrees was higher in 1990 than current. And I am unsure if this should be a concern, but more than 80% of entry-level HR roles are filled by females. However, I am concerned that a higher percent of females are Directors are in HR roles vs. non-HR roles. Of course, we need to be careful not to overly generalize.

  11. Ed Danielski Says:

    I keep seeing this statistic that the percent of those in human resources who had undergrad degrees was higher in 1990 than current. Please provide the citation where that information came from, or this someone just think it was a nice statistic to make up?
    Where is the data that supports the brightest students at best B-schools do not focus on human resources?
    I know some real dummies who came out of graduate programs in human resources at Cornell, Michigan, Illinois, etc. Education does not make you smarter or more competent. It only makes you more educated.
    Where is the data that supports the statement that human resources does not generally attract the smart folks?
    Where is the data that supports that a higher percent of females are directors in HR roles vs. non-hr roles? I believe that directors of nursing, social services, non-profits, management consultants have a higher percent of females.

  12. 18 Things I Wish We Would STOP Doing in Human Resources… Says:

    […] See on successinhr.com […]

  13. Leslie Says:

    Alan, I completely agree with your STOP doing suggestions. One of the main problems is that the cycle continues. And it always seems we place individuals in leadership roles who can barely manage their work let alone the work of other employees. Also, we are hiring any type of individual in HR. Individuals who are not customer service oriented. Causing our profession to have a bad taste in both managers, employees and applicants mouths. Examples, those who believe because it isn’t in my job description, I can’t help you with that. I have truly lost respect for a lot of the HR Leadership because most hiring actions are politically driven. HR Advisors/Consultants/Specialist and Assistants are compromising the integrity of hiring practices established in laws, regulations, policies and procedures to appease Management Officials. It’s like everything we do in HR is tainted from Classification, Staffing & Recruitment to Pay & Compensation. I do think a lot of the older generation HR individuals need to retire and the more seasoned upcoming HR generation need to make dramatic changes that will promote employees all levels down to the lowest levels…

  14. Larry Reuss Says:

    Very courageous and insightful article. I didn’t realize that there were human beings in the H.R. field! Makes me proud to have worked with you and hopeful for the future of American industry.

    Only one hitch: Your article should be required reading in MBA programs; but it’s doubtful that will happen anytime soon.

  15. Allan Gatenby Says:

    Lets stop negative thinking, externalizing blame and negative language. lets start thinking positive, accept that there are some things we can change, start helping poor leaders to become great, start putting the focus upon leadership and recognizing that change in some cases will come slowly (evolution) whilst in other places it will be by revolution.

  16. Elton Clark Says:

    Amen to that!! I hold HR professionals and leaders to a higher standard of excellence, including myself. I work by example; by being credible, knowledgeable, being a good listener, fair, consistent, being culturally competent, understanding, and respectable towards others regardless of title and job status.

  17. Kelly Says:

    As one of the apparently rare “smart folks” that was attracted to HR, I was told by my friends in Finance in my MBA program that I was stupid to choose HR as a concentration. Then I watched shortly after graduation in October 1987 when Wall Street went bust and all my friends in Finance were unemployed and I had a good job. I went into HR because that was the aspect of business that I enjoyed the most – where 80-90% of the expense is. (People and benefits). A smart CEO appreciates a good HR leader, and gets rid of a bad one. The fact that the profession is 80% women is just further evidence that it is underappreciated, and thus where the women are permitted to work. The HR function is not the problem. Raise the bar and you raise the results! Start expecting exceptional contributions from the HR department, and you’ll get them. And that doesn’t mean requiring an SPHR after a name!

  18. Alan Says:

    Well said Kelly, follow your own path!

    Best,
    Alan

  19. Sanjay Panse Says:

    I am in agreement with the views expressed in the article. Today’s Gen-Y HR Professionals must read this..

  20. Lisa Says:

    WOW!!! We have some angry HR people in the room. I have to say it is about time someone had the balls to write it and publicize it!! Thank you Alan for writing this article.
    As HR professionals we are the go to people for everything. They all come to HR with issues they want us to resolve and they want it done yesterday.
    Ranting is always good as it cleans the soul.

    Great article Alan and I look forward to more, you think like I do!!! Actions speak louder then words. and your actions are what are noticed, not your words.

    Cheers!
    Lisa

  21. Graciella Says:

    Kudos Alan. Let’s BE ‘in the business of HR’ and let’s stop having LOB leaders define/redefine HR to suit themselves and falsely claim that as a business partnership.

  22. Dorette Brownlee Says:

    My suggested additions to the Top 18 list are:
    1)
    Identifying techniques that truly teaches the buisness to set meaningful goals to drive higher performance at all levels of the business, beginning with the leaders.
    2)
    Also, finding solutions to hold leaders fully accountable for their performance (good or bad).

  23. Joseph Says:

    How about

    Here are a few more:

    “Let’s stop turning the getting of one’s first job into what so often has become the chicken and egg impossibility that has robbed people of so many of what should have been the best years of their lives, by expecting them to get 2-5 years of experience before getting their first jobs, and then refusing to think about the chronological impossibility of that.”

    “Let’s stop abusing our power by rejecting applicants for asinine reasons like the fact that he salted his food before tasting it, when we took him out for lunch, or because he failed stare at us enough during an interview, looking elsewhere to refocus his eyes when eye strain kicked in, as normal people tend to in this place called ‘the real world.’ Let’s start recognizing that ‘always looking somebody straight in the eye’ during the entire length of an interview, in practice, amounts to having a staring contest with the interviewer, and that most real grown ups outgrew the desire to play that game back in middle school.”

    “Let’s stop rejecting applicants for being among the long term unemployed, and let’s certainly stop responding to the question of how a long term unemployed person is supposed to stop being unemployed when HR people act that way by copping an attitude, and saying that the unemployed shouldn’t blame others for their own problems. Let’s start recognizing that in the real world, our real abuse of real power has a real, and sometimes unacceptable (indeed, sometimes even unforgivable) impact on the lives of real people.”

    “Let’s stop rejecting applicants for being ‘overqualified’, and cease to argue that the mild inconvenience that we will suffer should they, in fact, find better positions elsewhere (forcing us to find somebody new) outweighs the hardships imposed on the applicant who now faces the prospect of indefinite unemployment, not merely in spite of the fact that he worked hard and achieved much in college and graduate school, but perversely, because of it.”

    One could fill volumes with this sort of thing, but really, it all boils down to the same thing

    “Recognize that with power comes responsibility, so lose the never wrong attitude and start apologizing for past abuses, in a hurry, before that power gets taken away. Recognize that real equality of opportunity is a right, not a privilege, and that we do owe something to the applicant, something better than the endless, unprincipled and unreasonable power playing that has been seen out of so many of us, at the expense of those who’ve come to our offices looking for an honest chance to do honest work.”

  24. Mus Says:

    Just three words.
    STOP PLAYING GOD .

  25. 6 Common Habits Recruiters Need to Stop Says:

    […] that sounds clever but doesn’t really mean anything. Not only that, Alan Collins for Success in HR says it’s woefully […]

  26. Sienna Eskildsen Says:

    I handle that by sending them a letter reiterating the no call no show policy along with hte dates they violated the policy. I also include a line about how if there are circumstances they would like to be considered to please contact me immediately to discuss. If you are worried they will show up before getting the letter you, as I do, inform management that if so and so shows up please send them home and refer them to HR.

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