Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Nine Correctable Reasons Why HR Gets Poor Marks

There are really good people in human resources. And they all too often get a bum wrap.  Often, it is because of lack of training and often it is because they are given far too much to do. 

So many of these problems are easily correctable, but management must be committed to doing so and provide the necessary resources.

1)    Most HR people are totally untrained
Companies often assign or promote favored executives to the HR department as a reward and promotion for loyalty or good work.  Unfortunately, many of these people are untrained and remain so.\

There are a few HR people who have gone on to become SPHR (Senior Professional in   Human Resources) or higher, which requires several years of study to complete; companies should be encouraging its valued HR people to do further study.  However, in fairness, some of the best HR Directors I have met have had no serious training but they  "get" it. Unfortunately, they are in the minority..

2)    Many companies wrongly define HR primarily as recruiting
There is a lot more to Human Resources than finding and hiring people.  Certainly this is true of advertising. Many agencies, in an effort to upgrade, have hired qualified professionals from other industries to run the department, only to bog them down and saddle them with recruiting assignments. The result is that there is no real upgrade.  And qualified HR people spend the bulk of their time interviewing rather than their other important work.

3)    Most advertising agencies don’t grant HR a seat at the management table
Because there is more to HR than just recruiting, human resources should be an integral part of management, but rarely is.  There are aspects of HR which are mostly ignored or undervalued – succession planning, training, employee incentives and retention, conflict resolution, sensitivity training – are just a few areas which every firm should pay attention to.
4)    Employees are afraid to go to HR with problems
There is huge distrust among employees when it comes to human resources.  This has happened because all too often when there is a complaint about another employee, whether supervisor or subordinate, the issue is not handled confidentially or professionally and it turns into a confrontation or worse.  HR needs to be trained in conflict resolution.  This is also true when an employee has an issue with a company policy.

5)    Human Resources often gets saddled with all the extraneous jobs
HR is often given assignments by management which have little to do with their real jobs.  They often handle things like moves, blood drives, filling seats at events, the baseball team, company outings, holiday parties, office tours, time-sheet management, all of which take away from their real job and actually detract from their own reputation.

6)    All too often, HR actually is not fully conversant with the company’s products or culture.
As harsh as that is, too many human resources professionals join a company and receive no training or real orientation about the company.  For instance, it is not uncommon to find HR contract recruiters at a company who have never seen their products manufactured, have actually not met the people they are recruiting for and have never been properly inculcated into the company culture.  This is true in and out of advertising.  Few ad agency recruiters or other HR people have ever actually seen the agency’s creative work or new business presentation, so they never truly have a feeling for the culture or the product. At ad agencies, few HR people have actually spent time observing account people, planners, creative people and others who do the work so that they fully understand how to recruit for these people.
7)    Few HR managers are empowered to monitor and manage rotations and salary reviews
Over the years, I have interviewed hundreds of executives who are overdue for a salary increase or promotion, but have gotten caught in the cycle of new managers who don’t know them well enough to recommend timely raises or advancement.  That should be when HR is allowed to step in and manage the process, but it rarely happens.  It breeds resentment and the feeling that HR is impotent.

8)    In large companies, many employees don’t know who to contact if there is an issue 
HR professionals should be assigned to manage people.  Just like most companies have a benefits person or a payroll person in the HR department, there should be people in HR assigned to each employee as ombudsmen so that employees know who is looking out for them or managing their career.

9)    When important information is learned during exit interviews, it is rarely acted upon
One HR person confessed to me that she knew who all the problem employees were, but, “What can I do? Most of those people are senior vice presidents and higher”. Departing employees, although disconnected, can give wonderful perspective on issues within a company learned during exit interviews.  HR people should be empowered to act on that information.

I wrote about this a few years ago in a post called “What’s Wrong With HR”.  Today’s post is intended to put the issues into perspective.  If management fully values and backs its Human Resources Department and lets them do what they are supposed to do, I truly believe employee retention will increase along with company profits.


  1. I agree totally with your article.
    Firstly I think HR is very distanced from the people they are involved in hiring. Their is a distinct lack of professionalism and personalisation. I think it is very off putting for staff.
    As an example when I joined my company a year and a half ago I had to request my annual leave allowance. I was informed to look it up. From my way of thinking having previously been a recruiter, this should have been a part of the offer and contract procedure. Also in a period of one year I was regularly paid out incorrectly, having vast sums of money deducted because they assumed I was paying into a pension, which I had declined.
    For my son, his exit interview was the best part of the HR process at his previous company.

    1. Anon, Sounds to me like the HR people you deal with had no idea how to handle your situation. That is unfortunate, but to my point, they were/are not trained to do what they should be doing. Unfortunate for you and for them.


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