Throughout my career I’ve seen some interesting stuff go down in HR. I’ve seen bullying, favoritism and some unethical behavior. I’ve also seen some really great stuff: mentoring, standing up to bullies, and strong partnerships to name a few. Unfortunately the bad stuff has a way of polluting the rest of the HR department, making some areas of HR a no-sane-person land. I’m sure some of you know exactly what I’m talking about:
“The compensation team is great there but I wouldn’t go anywhere near recruiting, that team is run by a total jerk.”
So what makes a crappy HR department? Here are some ideas:
1. Make special exceptions for the 1% at your company: I’m not talking about giving somebody an extra week of vacation with their job offer. I’m talking about ethical lapses such as hiring a major customer’s flunkie son as an intern, outside of your normal intern program or hiring processes. Not only have you hired someone who isn’t qualified you have also hurt the integrity of your recruiting team. After all, if you only need to be a big enough customer or be high enough on the chain to get someone hired, why should any employee encourage a young person to apply at a place rife with favoritism?
2. Put policies into place because they are good branding but then make using those policies so cumbersome that most people don’t even bother to try. We know these as the companies that have those gorgeous careers pages that tout all their wonderful programs (day care! pet care! flexible hours! employee bowling team!) only to find that no one actually takes advantage of those programs.
3.Do everything you can to make the “best place for mom’s/pet owners/single people” lists at the expense of what actually works for your company: “who cares if only 2% of our employee’s use the ridiculously expensive pet day care, we made the AKC’s best places to work list!” (this is a joke by the way, the AKC doesn’t have any such list).
- Some of the “best” places to work spend a lot of time changing and tweaking policies and programs to get on these lists that they are basically “teaching to the test.” Instead of trying to understand what works best for the company and its employees, the HR department spends a lot of time and effort making and staying on these lists.
- I know of one company where making the list every year has become so time consuming that employee’s just started lying on the surveys and stated they were happy regardless if they were or not. People were more afraid of what “new” program would come if they answered in the negative. They saw the survey as just another piece of irrelevant work sent from HR that they needed to get out of their way.
Some of my examples may not be known to employees outside of the HR group. But these examples contribute to cynicism and negativity in HR and the organization. If HR can’t defend hiring programs, or blindly pursues projects that “look good” on paper but are effectively useless, how do we expect our teams to put their best efforts into recruiting and retaining employees? The stuff that is known outside the HR group just makes employees care less and it builds cynicism too:
“Yea, love those summer hours…too bad no one can figure out how to actually get the scheduled approved and work it!”
What about you? What practices have you seen that undermine and make for a crappy HR department? Leave your comments below; I’d love to hear from you!