Grateful for HR Incompetence!

facebook hr_SMALLImagine the pride I feel for my profession when a friend of mine posts this on Facebook!

Sorry. Forgive the sarcasm.

But it’s a valid point. I hate the fact that, in many organizations, the Human Resources department is seen as an obstacle and anything other than helpful.

What is interesting to think about is that we (HR) spend so much time bemoaning not being allowed to be strategic, that we miss opportunities to do some of the tactical stuff right.

Think about it this way. You are the CEO. Leaders and employees don’t have good things to say about the HR function. Why would you then take the same department that is causing frustration, and invite us to the “table?” You probably wouldn’t.

The unasked question, at least in my mind, is “why do you tolerate it,” but that’s a question for another day.

Let’s explore a few of the ways that HR could make just a couple tweaks and shift the paradigm from hindrance to help.

Accuracy and Efficiency

Not sure there is much more to say here. Credibility builds when the right work is accomplished efficiently.  Do HR leaders know the accuracy of the work their team is doing?

Customer Service

Today, most mid- to large-size HR departments have call centers that are supposed to answer routine questions from employees, freeing up HR consultants to consult. Great theory.

In reality, I see more of a traffic cop, who doesn’t have the knowledge or experience and ends up saying, “Oh you’ll have to call compensation/benefits/fill-in-the-blank.”

Businesses that provide outstanding customer service do this differently. They:

  • Place talented service providers in service roles
  • Establish a set of standards for dealing with customers
  • Train and reinforce the behavioral standards
  • Measure and observe behaviors

Never send a caller off to someone else; instead, connect the caller to the right person, provide a quick introduction of the caller and the problem, and follow up later to make sure the problem was successfully resolved.


Some of us geeks enjoy the challenge of finding things on the web; most busy people do not. HR has a tremendous opportunity to streamline processes through the use of technology, but needs to be smart. When an organizational leader needs multiple passwords to access HRIS manager self-service, performance management, staffing requisitions, or other key processes, they are frustrated. Technology exists to create single-sign-on processes that log into all systems at once.

Ah, but when you get there, do you need an MS in computer science to navigate multiple systems? That could be a bit frustrating as well.

An intranet can be a marvelous source for “knowledge management” or “just-in-time” learning, but if a user can’t find what she’s looking for in 1 or 2 clicks, she’ll call the help desk.

If your HR strategy involves creating a knowledge database that will take some of the stress off the call center, make sure it is easy to use or the savings you project with the use of technology will never happen.

Presenting HR in silos

Leaders and employees know they need help, information or problem solving, and they can figure out that the help they need resides in HR. That’s really all they should have to know.

HR silos have become so complex these days that practitioners of sub-disciplines have enough to do keeping up with their own part of HR. But to not be able to answer a basic question about another area of the same HR team screams “not helpful” and “silos.”

Every member of the HR team needs to know the HR strategy, be aware of the operational and financial performance of the organization, and represent HR as a holistic place where questions about people can be answered.

The little stuff

It is my contention that it usually isn’t the big stuff that derails a reputation; it is the little stuff. To expect to play in the big time, we must have our act together with the little stuff. There is nothing about HR that is not strategic because it all comes together in the eyes of the end users, and conclusions are drawn on the whole.

How well are you accomplishing the little things?

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