3 Mysterious Questions That Confound HR & Recruiting

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Last week over on Workology, I wrote about the complex job titles that we often face in HR. What’s the difference between a human resource business partner and a HR specialist? Why do job titles, responsibilities and requirements have to be so darn complex, yet specific and gray all at the same time? These are the types of questions that often fill my email inbox from outsiders begging to understanding HR. I guess it’s just par for the course in working in a human resources role. It’s one of those unanswered questions we spend way too much time debating, understanding and worrying about. Reminds me of the Tootsie Pop and their ad campaign that left me wondering as a child, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?” This as well as a handful of others question is one in HR,are answers we may never know.

What does HR actually do?

That my friend is the million dollar question or more aptly the $8.1 billion question for human capital technologies looking to sell to practitioners in the human resource industry. Unless you’ve actually done the work of an HR professional or a recruiter, it is hard to explain. There’s just something about working in HR. It consists of a practitioner’s inside joke where we laugh and swap stories about crazy requests for religious accommodation like that time an employee told me his lip piercing was no different than a Muslim headdress. Believe it or not there is actually a church of body modification which Wikipedia reports has more than 3,500 members in the United States.

In my experience most outsiders think HR is all about hiring and firing. Most people from the outside think they want to work in HR because they like people. I don’t know very many HR professionals who find fun in spending time knee deep in paper as part of the discovery process in a class action lawsuit against your company. Often times there isn’t very much people involved in what HR actually.

Why isn’t HR part of Diversity?

Depending on your organization size and structure, sometimes things like diversity are completely separate from the HR function but not always entirely. It just really depends. Some companies have Recruiting oversee Diversity or it’s under the umbrella of Operations functions at other companies. Personally, it make sense for HR, Recruiting and Diversity to all work together under the same organizational umbrella because much of their work is overlapped and involves one another. Yes, the goals are likely different and the people who fit in these roles might be too. It’s part of the age old question and debate that HR shouldn’t be part of Recruiting at all. In fact some have suggested that Recruiting should oversee HR. Frightening prospect am I right?

Diversity, however is more than recruiting. It’s about culture, people and creating an environment where there is diversity of thought, innovation and traditional diversity ideas like skin color, country and men vs. female at your company. HR is supposed to be about all of these things and yet diversity often is separate from HR.

Why does everybody hate HR?

First off, hate is a very strong word. I don’t think that everyone hates HR. HR in my mind gets a serious bad rap. Managers and business readers often don’t understand what we do. Some of this blame falls squarely on the shoulders of HR, but this idea has it’s roots in the actual creation of HR job and the human resources industry. In my mind, there are essentially two different types of people – creators and organizers. Creators are those that create things. They build things. They lead programs and grow organizations. They are often unorganized, complex dreamers and seen as crazy. Organizers on the other hand are well organized. They maintain balance. focus and just get the job done. These are the people you can count on to finish a deadline. The two (creators and organizers) work best operating in balancing with one another. HR, has its roots in being an organizer when companies really need a creator to lead programs and planning for their human capital. Hence, the reason why everyone hates, misunderstands HR.

HR has its roots in compliance and organization maintaining intermittent FMLA hours and employee filing. These are the traits of foundational HR. This is HR’s history and yet they are in direct conflict with what our business leaders are expecting HR to be. They want us to be leaders, creators and innovators when we’ve been rewarded for being organizers. It’s part of our industry’s internal struggle and the reason we get a bad rap. No one including ourselves knows actually and fully what we do so they choose to hate HR.

What’s a mysterious question that confounds either your boss, team or friends when it comes to HR? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Learn more about diversity and its important role in HR by joining this webinar on 1/13/13 at 12 PM EST. Click here

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