Gareth Jones recently blogged on the question, “HR: Where’s the Passion?” There are some massively talented, bright, and passionate people in HR. I’ve worked with a few, met a few, and regularly read blogs by a few. There are some really inspiring superstars out there, but on the average…? Gareth got me thinking a bit and maybe you really don’t see much passion overall.
I think HR is one of the best fields there is because it lives at the intersection of Business and Humans. Companies die, survive, or thrive based on the people they attract, retain, and develop and HR is the department that can make that happen. What could be cooler?! (If you want more of my take on the awesomeness of HR, try why HR rocks or human resources’ top goal? .)
Of course, I also wrote why I wouldn’t hire an HR person for an HR job so even though I’m passionate about the field I do have concerns. So, as Gareth asks, where is the passion? I don’t know for sure, but do have a few thoughts:
- Until recently, HR was very administrative as a field and it still is in many organizations. Processing and filing paperwork as the focus of a job does not require passion to be successful. In fact, having passion probably makes you ill-suited for any long term success at the job.
- HR in some organizations can get overly focused on bureaucracy and make policy enforcement the core function. Again, not a place that rewards passion.
- HR managers who believe their #1 job is to prevent lawsuits end up with HR departments that are fearful, rigid, and focused on everything you can’t do instead of what you can do. Passionate people want to be engaged and active and accomplishing, not timid roadblocks.
- HR theoretically extends throughout the organization yet can end up very siloed or excluded. That doesn’t attract or keep people who want to make a difference.
- In times past, HR was often a dumping ground: a place for people not meeting expectations who the company didn’t have the heart to get rid of or a place to “promote” secretaries to when the company didn’t know what else to do with them. These were people who didn’t love HR to begin with and were just coasting out the end of their careers.
- HR is a tough, tough job. Employees and managers are often only involved with HR when things are intense and going badly. Tough decisions have to be made. Laws and regulations are often ambiguous, confusing, or even contradictory. People get nervous when you call them, fearing the worst. Not many people stop by just to say thanks. So, even those who enter the field all full of passion and zeal can get beaten down pretty quick.
- Finally, because of all this, I think there are very few role models to teach newcomers that it’s ok to be enthusiastic and love your work and do great stuff and HR is the place to do that.
But, I think it’s changing. I’m seeing more and more blogs by folks who see HR as the place to make a difference. Social media is letting like-minded folk across the planet connect and share ideas and see that they are not alone. We are getting more and more role models in the field.
Speak up, make some noise, and rock the HR banner a little higher!
Great post and thanks for the mention! Of course I was picking on HR because like you its a passion for me. I was also thinking though that there is a lack of passion across the business generally. Your observation that HR is one of the best places to be is spot on – after decades of trying, and failing, to find the holy grail of organisational performance, we are finally turning back to what matters – people.
I also like your other post on why you wouldn’t hire an HR person for an HR job. Well said.
Great blog, one of the few from the US that isn’t just recruitment centric. Well done!
Gareth, thanks for commenting. It’s always great to hear that ideas connected and resonated. Plus, I really enjoy hearing from people who get how cool HR is and a share a vision for what it really could be.