HR Are People Too. Cross My Heart.
This week I’m at the SHRM Talent and HRO Today Forum conferences in Washington, DC and next week I’m in New York City for the HRPS Global Conference. All three are great events with a variety of human resource professionals from big companies as well as small. But there is a sad reality lurking in the midsts. Let me just preface this by saying HR people are fun. We are people too. In fact, HR professionals are some of the most interesting people you may ever meet. I promise. Cross my heart.
When I was in college my Anthropology professor, Dr. Harald Prins used to say the field of Anthropology attracted “weird birds.” These weird birds viewed the world differently and enjoyed analyzing cultures, history, and human beings looking through a completely different world lens. Mostly because our job as Anthropologists is to observe and study the social classes and groups of human beings and their cultures. We use methods like participant studies, interviews and surveys to gather our data and support points of view. To me, this sounds more than a little like what we do in HR. And sometimes being a weird bird can be a lonely place especially among the corporate cultures.
Employee Engagement & The Anthropology of HR
Our responsibility in the field of HR is to view the organization differently. We focus on evaluating and working towards soft measurables using programs that promote employee engagement or work life balance or the candidate experience. Our involvement in the organization with these programs has far reaching effects, and yet most senior leaders, front line managers, or employees have no clue. HR effectively has a PR problem.
Can HR Make Friends at Work?
HR professionals are people too, and unfortunately, in most organizations this fact is lost among our bosses, peers, and employees. They see us as the policy police responsible for hiring and firing left to observe the culture of our organization like an Anthropologist instead of inserting ourselves into that culture. Because inserting ourselves into the culture and building friendships poses a risk. The sad reality of HR is that becoming friends at work is often times not an option. We avoid happy hours after work and keep to ourselves. It’s hard to enjoy a beer with an employee with the knowledge that they’re on a performance improvement plan or part of an ongoing HR investigation.
And so our employees effectively have no idea what we do, who we are, or how our role benefits the organization. I guess that’s where I see bloggers and those HR professionals active on social media working to change the stereotype for HR. While HR professionals internally can make changes by inserting themselves into the culture at their organization and building relationships. While at the same time, this blog and others like it as well as HR communities with a large reach can do the same.
Employee Perception Change of HR in 2012
There is not a week that doesn’t go by someone doesn’t tell me, “My HR person is nothing like you.” They say, “You use social media, you blog, and you speak your mind. You are nothing like them.”
Yes, our interests may not be the same, but the people that work and dedicate their professional lives within this industry are some of the most interesting, creative, and engaging people I’ve ever met. As an independent consultant and analyst, I, however, am not chained the corporate HR throws. I don’t lie at wake at night wondering if that picture of me drinking a glass of wine on Facebook might be seen by my staff, and the problems and assumptions it might bring. Your HR team does worry about these types of things. . . . ALOT.
For HR, it’s time to move from behind the curtain, let loose, and for HR pros to take a risk. Nobody really cares about your Facebook picture of you and your friends drinking wine. It’s demonstrates your humanity not your liability if in moderation. Consider using Facebook settings to hide those pictures from your employees if you must. Move beyond the comfort zone of the HR conference and attend your front line manager’s next happy hour. Let’s help change that perception one person at a time.