more-arw search

Q&A Forum

Why does HR get no respect?

I can't tell you how many times over the years I've experienced this. It's almost like HR is perceived as just messengers for other people's decisions. It's also perceived by many as having little to nothing to do with increasing revenue, controlling costs or mitigating risk.... kind of like a department of filing clerks. Don't get me wrong, I've had a very successful career that I've thoroughly enjoyed. At the same time, I've had many younger colleagues ask me if HR is actually a good career path, because of these sorts of stereotypes. I even had one CEO tell me (right before I left for greener pastures) and while swilling his third cocktail, "look sis, just move the paperwork around and we'll get along fine." Seriously, what gives?

Answers

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

It's very simple. There are three broad aspects to HR, two of which HR people exceed at, the third they are clueless about and force their way into every decision-making opportunity.

Great HR activities: Compliance and associated paperwork, Benefit Administration (not benefit selection), Consultative salary banding

HR Activities they should never be involved with: Talent Acquisition.

Deborah Crockett
Title: Human Resources Manager
Company: PowerRail Distribution Inc.
(Human Resources Manager, PowerRail Distribution Inc.) |

I too have experienced the disrespect, and it is very disheartening. We do important work, but because HR doesn't generate revenue, it's hard to justify the expense to a "bottom line" type.

I do sort of agree with Wayne - Human Resources is a customer service function (albeit internal customers.) Talent Acquisition is a sales type function. There is a difference!

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Deborah, if one were to accept your contention that HR doesn't generate revenue and that's why it is not respected, then you'd have to add most of the departments in a business, sans sales and marketing.

Accounting and finance don't "generate" revenue (not true, but I digress). The maintenance staff doesn't, the warehouse does, just a bit, same with shipping, etc.

One needs to look at your second half of your statement (where you agreed with me). Think customer service.

Anonymous
(CFO) |

"It's almost like HR is perceived as just messengers for other people's decisions."

Because that is true. HR is the corporate mouthpiece to the employees. They don't make any decisions. They only enforce those that are made above them.

HR usually tries to sell themselves to the employees as advocates for the employees. They say they want to ensure they are treated fairly. All the while, they will do everything in their power to protect the agency. Even when the agency is wrong.

It still amazes me when some employee sees something they think is wrong or against policy and thinks that reporting that to HR is a good idea because HR will side with them and take action. Instead, the employee ends up being shown the door under manufactured pretenses. They suddenly are put on a performance improvement program after reporting a potential liability of the organization.

HR is the "enforcer" for the organization. But they love to pretend they are the employee's friend. Then they try and curry favor with the C-suite folks like us by offering up the information they've gleaned by "spying" on the employees.

Anonymous
(Controller) |

The reasons why I lost respect for my former company's HR Dept is exactly as Anon (CFO) said and Wayne said. I witnessed a case like Anon described. When I had my own complaints to bring to HR, our HR rep just kept on making up excuses for the abuses by management. I had a colleague get put on a PIP and fired after filing a complaint, and I was laid off around a month after filing a complaint. Talent acquisition is a tough task and the people who are in charge of the position opening don't have the time to sort through tens if not hundreds of resumes so I can't fault them too much, but they do seem to miss some diamonds in the rough for whatever reason they decided to weed out the resume.

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

Let me turn the question around......

1. What value do you think you/HR brings (brought?) to the company aside from what you have mentioned (messengers, paper pushers, etc)?

2. Have you in any way brought new paradigms and enhanced the culture of the company or how things are done ?

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

Put it another way.....

Respect is earned....what have you/HR done to earn it?

ArLyne Diamond
Title: Owner - President
Company: Diamond Associates
LinkedIn Profile
(Owner - President, Diamond Associates) |

A few years ago I interviewed 50 C level executives and among the questions I asked them was about HR. Only one of the 50 had anything good to say about their HR personnel. The disrespect varied from the perceived inability to pick good candidates from a group of resumes, to interfering with getting any work done. The HR people who were expected to have sound people-counseling and training skills were seen as mediocre at best. Their ability to investigate complaints was extremely biased towards the complainant. There were many other problems as well.

All too often people select HR as their profession for the wrong reasons. They are either would-be therapists who have not gone to school to learn counseling or psychology, or they fell into benefits recruitment, etc., because they started out in small companies doing everything administration required.

Too many people in management have too many stories to tell about the inferior service/activities of their HR staff - as me. Galfo said: "Respect is earned."

Mike Shur
Title: Senior Manager of Human Resources, Globa..
Company: Viavi Solutions
LinkedIn Profile
(Senior Manager of Human Resources, Global Training and Development, Viavi Solutions) |

Don't mean to state the obvious, but it's not as if HR departments fall from the heavens prepared to stand it he way of progress by following outdated, irrelevant, work-hampering rules. HR, just like any other department in an organization, is a reflection of that organization's needs and values.

Don't the CFO and CHRO (or equivalent) sit in the executive meetings together week in and week out? If HR is not being held accountable to demonstrate its value and the links from recruiting through to legacy creation (succession) are unclear, buried, or ignored, then it must be high time to make that chain, and all others much more explicit for employees.

In fact, HR can help to achieve and maintain organizational goal alignment without which no company can succeed consistently. The transformation that's been happening in HR for 20+ years is the journey from an after-thought compliance group to an internal consultancy that is coming to rely on big data to test and create predictive analytical models that help the bottom line AND the employees.

I think a "glass house" approach may benefit each department and the company overall. Rather than caste jaundiced eyes on HR colleagues, sitting down to create workforce plans and competency models that reflect current business priorities and provide for growth that keeps up if not gets ahead of the marketplace.

Or am I too optimistic about this given the state of HR today?

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Mike - I think you're too optimistic.

While I didn't bring up issues surrounding EEOC and other types of complaints, depending on the company, their philosophy on how to handle internal issues, the industry and regulatory oversight and whether they are unionized, HR is either partial to one group (employer/employee)or really impartial (the facts are the facts).

To me, if a hiring manager is looking for a key employee (and let's focus in on C-Level or Senior Management) and they don't take the time to look at every resume, then they are abrogating their responsibility.

Anonymous Controller mentioned that many diamonds are missed when HR uses either keyword search or other [non-]scientific methods to parse the pile of applicants. Resumes are as unique and diverse as hopefully the pool of applicants you attract.

Because someone does or does not use buzz or keywords doesn't make them either ideal or not. It takes a human being to access those values. This is where HR fails.

They either have or have accepted a group of must haves without understanding that they are not absolutes but more of a wish list. One must interpret the information, and here is where the hiring manager should be the individual to gauge which resume deserves a second or third look, a phone call or an interview, not an HR person.

Sure, the hiring manager mess up and miss the perfect person, but that person is the person who makes the final decision (or is suppose to).

And that is another aspect of HR which I never understood. After a hiring manager decides on a hire, HR gets involved (and I'm not talking about paperwork or legal compliance issues - which they exceed at),nthey start another round of interviewing. Why?

Paul Stheeman
Title: Interim Treasurer
Company: Self-employed
(Interim Treasurer, Self-employed) |

The answer is simple. You can not sit on both sides of the fence!

On the one hand HR reports to the CEO/CFO and is expected to roll down policies to the employees. On the other hand HR sees itself in being there to serve the employees' wishes.

There is a clear conflict here. No one can serve two masters simultaneously and one of the two masters will be disappointed. It is when that happens that HR becomes unpopular.

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

That is what is wrong with current business paradigms. There should be NO fences. At least if there is one....it should be a LOW one. When businesses have an "us" (management) vs "them" (employees) or vice versa, it is already doomed.

I agree that culture has everything to do with this perspective and the CEO/Board has everything to do with the creation of culture, HR needs to LEAD and innovate.

I would love to see lots more of the Laszlo Bock's (Google) or Liz Ryan's (Human Workplace...lots of articles on LinkedIn and Forbes) in HR...even Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn) although not an HR person has a different paradigm/perspective on the workplace (employer-employee relationship). I recommend Reid's Tour of Duty book or Laszlo's Work Rules.

To answer the original poster, in my opinion,....

HR does not get respect because HR still has OUTDATED paradigms/perspective regarding your role and perspective on employee/employer relationships. When you fail with outdated views, you don't get respect from "management" or you don't get respect from "employees" or both. HR needs to get past the "usual" role of compliance, legal, "paperpushing" etc and needs to lead if not help in culture building. Be it in the formulation of policies and procedures to hiring practices and employee selection, to maintenance of whatever it is you are trying to build. If your CEO/Board still has outdated views...then do your damn best to change it or at least minimize the effects.

I encourage you to read Laszlo's book, Reid's book and the numerous articles by Liz (to name a few) and hopefully you will find out the reasons why you dont get any respect.

Okay...enough of Rodney Dangerfield (dating myself).

Mark Sevenich, M.A., PHR, SH..
Title: Senior Human Resources Business Partner
Company: University of Minnesota
(Senior Human Resources Business Partner, University of Minnesota) |

Interesting posts. I have been in HR for over 18 years in multiple industries in a generalist and leadership capacity. My most memorable and enjoyable experiences have been when I established a personal and business relationship with the C-suite. Moreover, I enjoyed getting to know employees at all levels of the organization and gain their trust and confidence. As for the C-suite, I found that when we both understood each other's roles and responsibilities, we were able to achieve more together. Having said that, I have had to work with and report to some rather poor HR leaders. Characteristics of those poor HR leaders were, but not limited to, egotistical, no understanding of the business, all compliance, poor at execution, and unable to tether human capital with business needs. I have shared with others that sometimes, you can learn more from a bad leader than a good leader.

I have found that HR can provide invaluable benefit to an organization. The difference is, HR has to want to do that and must be led to do so. I take pride in being told by leaders that I serve who view me as a key business ally and that I have earned the respect of employees at all levels, especially in tough circumstances. To this end, this is why I interact with and subscribe to other functional areas outside of HR like Proformative. To better serve others, look not only inside but outside as well.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Mark - Well said!

Anonymous
(CGMF) |

The issues with many HR leaders that I had to deal with are, they do not make an effort to understand the culture of the organisation and most of the time are unaware of the statutory requirements pertaining to employment.

Each organisation has its own distinct culture and it is all about adding value within that culture to bring out the best in people, while at the same time putting across practical employee-specific needs to top management for implementation.

Most of them get into a certain mind-set of introducing so-called motivational activities, which more often than not, prove to be of little value to enhance employee effectiveness. Employees on the other hand, tend to treat these "breaks" as paid-holidays, and have a good time and forget whatever lessons/good practices that such activities were supposed to bring about - not mentioning the money spent by the organisation on these activities without getting the desired result.

Maybe a humane approach to understand each team member and come to be a trusted friend on any issues they may have in and out of office, while uncompromising on corporate needs, may also add value. Can be a tall ask, but then this could work towards overall work effectiveness.

Topic Expert
Scott MacDonald
Title: President/Owner
Company: AlphaMac Resources, Inc.
(President/Owner, AlphaMac Resources, Inc.) |

Interesting question. Here are my thoughts.

I think there are a lot of issues surrounding talent acquisition. Most HR departments try to eliminate resumes' rather than look for the right person. "They spelled a word wrong, that goes in the trash".

Also, I am amazed that companies have not been sued when they demand a resume with dates of employment for every employer. Those dates tell exactly how old a person is. We should require skills based resumes. I would rather know what a person can do and uninterested in where they worked and in what years.

Annual performance evaluations are worthless. Employees need immediate feedback as to their performance.

HR should be helping to find people in their organization that know when something isn't being done right or there is fraud or mismanagement. But HR will fire a person because the manager said so, even though their work history has been outstanding. That is a red flag that the otherwise excellent employee suddenly needs to be fired. Additionally, reporting of management misdeeds needs to be done to an independent third party under contract by the company's legal firm. Telling it to the HR department is the kiss of death to the employee making the report.

So here are some issues that you might want to address, as I doubt I am the only one who has these issues.

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: CEO & COO
Company: Treasury Careers
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO & COO, Treasury Careers) |

Easy, respect is earned. Many HR departments do not deserve it. That being said, Finance should partner with HR to teach them how to leverage technology, analyze data, add value, and thus, earn respect.

3516 views

Get Free Membership

By signing up, you will receive emails from Proformative regarding Proformative programs, events, community news and activity. You can withdraw your consent at any time. Contact Us.

Business Exchange

Browse the Business Exchange to find information, resources and peer reviews to help you select the right solution for your business.

Learn more

Contribute to Community

If you’re interested in learning more about contributing to your Proformative community, we have many ways for you to get involved. Please email content@proformative.com to learn more about becoming a speaker or contributing to the blogs/Q&A Forum.