The Problem with HR


This series will focus on some of the things that HR does wrong. I guess I need to start with a disclaimer saying that there are a lot of things that HR does well. I am speaking in generalities of course, but HR is really good at spearheading policies and procedures. They are quite good at keeping all the regulatory records required by our oppressive government and administering benefits such as health insurance and 401K’s. There are various and sundry other things that HR is quite effective at doing. Furthermore, I find that many HR people that I have worked with are extremely dedicated and put it extraordinary efforts and extremely long hours. Having said that, most HR executives that I have seen are sort of “Jacks of All Trades,” when it comes to juggling many different priorities in a company. Their problems have to do with recruiting. Recruiting is a function of sales & marketing and let’s face it, if HR folks were interested in sales & marketing, they would have pursued that as a career, but they didn’t. Recruiting is the life-blood of any company regardless of its stage or size.

The problem with HR is that they seem to think that because they have a job description and a basic understanding of the roles and responsibilities, they therefore know what it takes to be successful in identifying, attracting and compelling someone to join their company. It is obvious to me that the vast majority of HR peeps have an inability to identify talent, and that is just the beginning. I don’t blame them for this because it is an extremely complex formula that requires a deep understanding of the skill sets and context of the position that you are recruiting for and the psychology of bringing someone from the point of indifference to interest. In a recent blog that I read called “People Who Suck Don't Know They Suck” I instantly thought of 90% of the HR people I’ve worked with over the years who have no clue how to assess talent or recruit talent, yet they are convinced that it is one of their core competencies. I believe this is one of the reasons for the tension that is often present between HR and Executive Search Consultants.

The proof is in the pudding. Not only are most of their hiring processes over-engineered, they are inflexible to the nuances of a successful recruiting process. It requires acute insight into the mind and soul of a person to persuade them to consider a major life change. HR doesn’t seem to fully understand that all people cannot be processed through a check list and evaluated exactly the same even though they are being considered for the same position. Most HR types seem to be under the impression that prospects need to fit into their neatly wrapped hiring process when the best person to determine the ideal process is the one who understands their motivation and the unique triggers that would entice them to make a move. The most effective searches I’ve conducted either didn’t have an HR person involved because it was a start-up or the senior executive took the reigns away from HR and circumvented the sanctioned process and hired the candidate that they wanted. I can’t recall a well executed search where there was an internal HR executive who led the process. The successful searches I’ve conducted with larger companies have been where the HR executive deferred to me and played a supportive role in the process. I fully appreciate that many of them are very reluctant to yield control of the process because they either have reason not to trust the Search Consultant or they simply have “control issues.” I have seen it both ways. The point that I am making is that HR plays an vital role in companies, but when it comes to recruiting talent they are best as a support to the Executive Search Consultant and not the lead.

Alright, now let the bullets fly…

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One thought on “The Problem with HR

  1. Recruitment is sales and marketing – you have nailed it! Further, it is consultative, strategic sales and marketing; that is, it requires skills and an approach that finds fit between an organisation’s business needs and an individual’s professional capabilities and personal needs. Thus the job of a recruiter is to drive the client’s core business. HR’s job is about defending the business (industrial relations, litigation) and managing essential back-house business processes (payroll).

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