HR Is a Lot of Things, But It’s Not Exactly Rocket Science

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I hear one thing over and over from people who read my stuff or see my presentations:

It’s not rocket science.

I take that as a compliment. I’m not trying to “wow” anyone with my big brain. I’ve never been known for being the big brain type. I’m the common sense, straight-forward type.

HR and Recruiting, to me, shouldn’t be hard and complex. It should be simple and easy to understand.

HR is not very complicated

That’s the problem. Too many HR and Talent Pros want to make it seem like “our” jobs are very complex and difficult.

This is natural and every profession does it. If HR is easy, you won’t be valued highly by leadership. So, let’s make it hard.

The last thing anyone wants to do is come out and say, “Hey! A monkey to do my job, but keep paying me $80K!” It’s very difficult culturally to come clean and say, “You know what? This stuff isn’t hard. It’s work. We have a lot to do. But, if we do what we know we have to do, we’ll solve this!”

But that’s HR and Talent Acquisition. It’s work. Many times, it’s a lot of work, but we aren’t trying to solve the human genome! We are trying to administer some processes, get our employees better, find ways to keep them engaged and happy, and find more folks who want to become a part of what we are doing.

That’s not overly hard. It’s not rocket science.

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A lack of alignment with leadership

I think the complexity in HR and Recruiting comes into play with those of “us” not being aligned with what our leadership truly wants. Many times we flat out guess what we think they want out of HR. Sometimes, we assume what they want and try to do that. Very rarely do we actually find out exactly what they expect, and just deliver that.

There are number of reasons for this.

  • First, we might not agree with what our leadership wants or expects from HR. So, we give them what we want and expect from HR. This never works well, but is tried often!
  • Second, our leadership changes what they want and expect as they see better ways to handle HR and Recruiting. Change is a bitch, and it’s more of bitch when it’s happening to you.
  • Third, we might not have the experience to deliver what is wanted or needed. So, you get what we can give you.

This seems to be why delivering great HR and Talent Acquisition becomes rocket science.

What IS hard? How about dealing with expectations?

We simply can’t have basic communication with our leadership and some self insight into our capabilities of what we can actually deliver. Couple this with most people’s unwillingness to ask for help, because they fear others will look down on them for not knowing, and you’ve hit the HR rocket science grand slam!

HR isn’t hard. Recruiting isn’t hard. Dealing with expectations, and our own insecurities — that’s hard!

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.

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4 Comments on “HR Is a Lot of Things, But It’s Not Exactly Rocket Science

  1. I respectfully disagree, Tim. HR is difficult and complex because people are complicated and unpredictable – from our leadership to the line managers and employees to the candidates we are recruiting.

    For example, we have to know how to effectively navigate the daily human unpredictability and make the appropriate decisions in order to maintain stability in our organizations. We have to know how to effectively navigate the crazy world of office politics in order to maintain consistency in the application of rules and policies. We have to understand the constantly changing regulatory environment in order to keep our people from going out of bounds. We also have to fully understand the organization’s strategy and how we can support it in achieving the organization’s business objectives.

    I work closely with scientists, engineers, and accountants and they do everything they can to avoid dealing with the HR issues I deal with every day (which adds to the complications of my work, by the way!). They want no part of it and are happy sticking to their black and white binary work.

    I fully understand why you think HR is not hard, however… Those who are the best at what they do make it look easy!

    1. Hr is required most when it becomes difficult for managers to handle the situation on their own
      The first level of HR support is always line managers. So when it comes to HR the situation is pretty complex n requires knowledge n expertise to solve. Dealing with unfamiliar situations n ambiguity are key traits. Is this easy to acquire??

  2. I agree with Rich B; good HR practice requires some pretty serious head work. It may not be Rocket Science, but it ain’t falling off a log, either. Just about every HR blog I’ve seen makes some reference to being a ‘strategic business partner’. To achieve that status requires, among other things, HR to forecast business needs and then put into place the systems to support them, while at the same time educating the leadership folks and obtaining their buy-in. Anybody who thinks that’s easy doesn’t doesn’t even come close to understanding it’s complexity.

    With regard to your points surrounding alignment, most executives don’t have a clue as to what they need from HR. What they want is having somebody else doing the tough parts of their job. Because HR really doesn’t know what they are supposed to do either, which makes them very insecure, they end up running around in circles trying to please their ‘customers’ rather than working to move the ball forward.

    If you look at recruiting as a transactional, single dimensional activity then, on paper, it’s a pretty straight forward exercise: Got a position to fill, find the candidate, hire the candidate, done deal. Easy, right? Wrong! Recruiting, done well, is much more than filling a round hole with a round peg. It’s understanding what the real requirements are to achieve success, both today and 2 years from today. It’s finding a cultural fit as well as meeting the job spec. It’s using assessment tools to help the candidate make a good decision. It’s helping the hiring manager with data and feedback so the company makes a good decision. It”s all this and more. Easy? I don’t think so.

    It’s hard to paint HR with a single brush, and trying to do so devalues the function. I’m sure thats not your intent, nor is it mine to disrespect your post. But the fact is that good HR is becoming harder and more complex as we move into the 21st century, and meeting those challenges successfully will require some pretty creative thinking. It’s not rocket science, perhaps, but it’s not far off whatever the HR equivalent is.

  3. The hardest part about HR is telling line-managers something they don’t want to hear and backing up your arguments with facts. It is difficult to push back, stand your ground because in the end it is the line-manager or commercial head that manages the money and is responsible for the P&L statement.

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