hr: bring the noise (repost)

I originally posted  this a couple of months back and am reposting it because I think it is an important topic worth repeating.


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 thedepartment 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!


  1. I’m torn on how to respond ~ really like the content, my entire business model is predicated on the theory that HR still falls way short of being a true strategic partner. No one should enter HR until they have served in the trenches, there’s no perspective from the ivory tower.


    1. Thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the content. I agree wholeheartedly that HR has so much more to bring and contribute to organizational results. Lots of untapped potential out there. Let’s keep the conversation going.


  2. Broc,

    I find these issues to be very interesting. I’ve only worked very briefly in an HR department, so I don’t know much about how HR departments work. And I’m reluctant to give my opinion, because I have very little experience working in an HR department. I can only really comment from an outsider’s perspective.

    A question that I have is:

    What is the ideal HR department?

    Basically, what would it do or not do? What role would it play in the company?

    I wonder how HR insiders might describe their ideal HR department.


  3. Greg, great questions. At it’s philosophical simplest, I believe HR helps businesses perform better. Businesses live or die based on people, yet we tend to ignore the people part of the equation when trying to figure out performance. HR can / should be a direct connection between people and business results. From my perspective, it’s not about HR, it’s about creating great business results through people. Better leadership decisions, better hiring, development, better culture, better engagement, better connection to strategy. But, that’s my take. I tend to think of myself as a businessperson working in HR vs an HR person working in a business.

    I’d love to hear what others think.


    1. Greg, love the honest and pointed question(s) ~ lots of variables to consider, but let me add: HR organizations should master the basics (transactional, administrative, legal, compliance), focus on communication with employees/leaders, and then “grow a set” when it comes to strategic planning. Too many sheep in HR, we need more wolves.


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