A Four-Letter Word That We Never, Ever Use in HR

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I’m not sure about your HR experience, but in my HR experience I’ve used every four-letter word known to man – except one.

That word is: “Luck.”

This came to mind recently when I was speaking to a really close HR friend of mine who happens to work at a really great company. It’s the kind of company that wins all of those HR and recruiting awards and accolades for doing “great” HR work. For being the industry leaders in HR and talent. For being the kind of company “we” should all follow and emulate.

Does greatness come from “luck?”

My friend is funny. I like hanging out with funny people, and she told me the only reason they’ve won any of those awards is luck! Not skill, not hard work, not better HR/recruiting talent – it’s luck. Granted, their team had to do some work after the luck to take advantage of timing, but she believes “luck” is the reason they got to greatness.

She says that they were your average to below average company – nothing special – when a perfect storm of timing hit them. They had a product that became popular and they went virtually overnight from being a nobody to a somebody.

We were the same company, but now everyone wanted to know how and what we were doing in HR and recruiting! Internally, we laugh about it – we weren’t doing anything new or different – but suddenly we were being asked to accept awards and come speak. To hear professionals all of sudden think you’re something special is a pretty cool feeling! Everyone should experience it, but it makes me sad because I know HR pros who are hell of lot more talented than I am who are working at crappy companies doing much more than we are in HR to turn their companies around, and they’ll never get awards and no one wants to hear them speak. Quite frankly, they do HR better than we do! We got lucky…

In HR, and in probably most parts of our organization, we never want to give “luck” credit for anything. It diminishes us as professionals, and it diminishes the profession.

A bad word to use in the corporate world

It can’t be LUCK that is making us “better,” it’s our skill! We didn’t get lucky by hiring that designer who after five years just had inspiration and got our company noticed; our selection process picked that person. We didn’t get lucky by winning that harassment lawsuit; it was our training.

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Luck is a very bad work to use in the corporate world! Can you imagine going into your CEO, and when she asks, “So, how did you guys lower our turnover by 25 percent in the past 12 months?” and you say, “Luck!” But how many of “us” had these type of conversations in the past few years when we saw our turnover plummet because of the recession, when our employees had no other job choices  and we went into our executives and talked about our “processes” our “engagement programs,” and our “programs to reduce turnover” – when in reality you could have done absolutely nothing and turnover was going to plummet.

Luck was on our side.

I like to give “luck” credit. I’ve been very lucky in my career , and I’m always willing to give it credit. I think luck has more to do with success than people want to give it credit for. Sure, once luck comes your way, you better have the skills and motivation to take advantage of your situation, but luck is behind many great pros.

I still believe hard work and skills will take you far, but hard work, skills and luck will take you further! That word “luck” is real tricky.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


3 Comments on “A Four-Letter Word That We Never, Ever Use in HR

  1. I agree, luck doesn’t get enough credit. Jim Collins explored this idea in How the Mighty Fall, which is a great read by the way. Once the importance of luck gets glossed over and hubris sets in, watch out!

  2. 1) Recruiting is something of a sales job—-luck is very much part of the equation (I work in sales BTW, and am really good at it, but luck does still enter into the equation).
    2) You sound like Jessica Alba who once insisted her “success” in Hollywood had nothing to do with luck, it was because she was talented and hard working. AHEM….
    3) HR has awards??? For what, being the most dickish?

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