I've finally figured it out: There is no such thing as HR.
There are only definitions of it created by buyers and providers (employers and employees) of HR services. Those definitions are seldom the same.
It came to me as a result of Why This Is An Important Moment For HR and some good comments that followed.
- Here's what Chris Ferdinandi (read his blog--very creative <i>and</i> practical dude) tossed in:
"HR's true value to an organization comes from being able to analyze what behaviors are needed from employees to achieve and exceed the business strategies. For example, if your company prides itself on service, what sorts of behaviors do you need from employees to fulfill that strategy? Calm demeanor in stressful situations? A willingness to make sure the customer is always satisfied? How do you motivate employees to demonstrate those behaviors? What are your incentive programs? Do you offer any training? And how do you demonstrate that those things translate to a higher bottom line (it CAN be done)?"
Is That How HR Is Really Viewed?
- I want somebody to handle payroll and benefits.
- I want people to help my managers stay out of trouble with employees.
- I want a bunch of people who can deal with union reps at our plants."
You're thinking, "These must be stone-age relics who will soon be retiring."
Nope. They're people with a need. It may very well not match your notion of "HR". But they've got the need and the money to spend on it.
Be honest. HR is an evolutionary concept under which a bunch of specialties have been lumped. You've got your benefits folks, OD mavens, union specialists, compensation number crunchers, employee communication geniuses, recruiters, training & development leaders, designers, instructors...
This leads to an identity crisis for everyone concerned. Many, many organizations still aren't hip to the array of distinct services that have been lumped into the "HR" category. They hire a super-charged training person when what they really wanted was an admin clerk; but the letters of reference and resume said, 'HR." Likewise, those entering HR aren't always clear about why they are getting into it or the different disciplines involved.
It's Always About Clarity and Met/Unmet Expectations
If you are in "HR" and really want to be doing large-scale change or leadership development, do everything possible to ensure that that's what you are getting into. Ask the right questions. You may find out that the actual job is 60% admin and 40% "soft stuff."
If you are an employer, be clear about what you want and what you are going to reward. If you want an HR administrator to handle systems and paperwork, say so. Don't lay out the possibility of some future, grandiose position in order to land a top-level candidate. It won't work.
Note: The visual above represents intentionality by Proctor & Gamble at clarity regarding how they view HR and the opportunities available.
For many, however:
There's no such thing as "HR." Know what you want, be straight about it, and don't sign for one thing expecting that you'll be able to change it to something else. It doesn't work in marriage and it doesn't work in business.
Afterthought: Maybe there is no real value in having professional "HR" organizations and associations. I wonder if it blurs the reality of the specialties that have emerged and doesn't serve anyone very effectively.