What a Tech Guy Said About HR

HR conferences are – or should be – about connecting as well as learning. If you look beyond the person sitting next to you in a session or at the same lunch table, you can find all kinds of people who can give you a different view of things.

During the fall conference season, I had the opportunity to talk to an IT/tech vendor several times when he responded to various issues in the conference venue. I’m not sure if he was hired by the HR group running the conference or by the facility, but it was clear that he had spent a lot of time dealing with the HR community just previous to and during the conference. I won’t tell you which conference, and I’ll just call him Kevin because I don’t want to identify him and possibly get him in trouble. 😉

So I asked him, “What do you think of HR people now that you have worked with them so closely on this conference?”

Do his answers surprise you?

  1.  HR cares only about operations and is unadaptable.  Kevin explained that HR is “all about process”.  HR wants to follow a script, even when it is clear that the script needs to be adjusted or has failed to work in a particular situation.  Thinking strategically and changing things doesn’t happen, even when it is necessary to fix a problem or deal with an unexpected event.
  2. HR doesn’t understand human value or compensate it appropriately. Kevin was stunned by the fact that there were people working during the conference – volunteers – that had paid their full registration fee to attend. “I work a lot of conferences”, he said, “and no one – NO ONE – works at a conference after paying to get in.”
  3.  HR certification is meaningless. It didn’t take long for Kevin to notice that no one was keeping track of attendance and that many people left the sessions long before the end. “How can someone get certification credits for something they left midway through?”

If you follow the online HR chatter even a little bit, you know that many, many HR writers have similar complaints and make similar arguments over and over again.

What no one seems to be able to address, though, is WHY. Why are people still making the same complaints about HR?

Maybe we should ask the IT/Tech department to fix it, because HR isn’t.


3 thoughts on “What a Tech Guy Said About HR”

  1. Number two needs more detail, particularly with regard to what defines a “volunteer.” In Wisconsin, we have a conference planning committee, of 20-25 volunteers, who work tirelessly throughout the year to put together and run the event. For their effort, their conference registration (though they spend most of the conference working, they can get away to see keynotes, sessions of interest, etc.), hotel for two nights, and mileage are covered. In addition, thank you gifts are also provided (usually in the range of $100+).

    However, it takes more than 20-25 people to run the event when it occurs. Assistance might be needed to stuff conference bags a couple of hours before the registration booth opens, assisting at the registration desk, helping to introduce the speakers at 70+ sessions, etc. So, we seek volunteers. It is encouraged if you are part of the state council to be one of the volunteers. However, we also ask during the registration process if anyone is willing to help. It is optional, and no one is “forced” to volunteer. They go in knowing some part of the conference might potentially be missed (one could intro a speaker for a session there are attending anyway). We usually provide a discount to the SHRM store for their time.

    I can understand if those going in were expecting a discount when volunteering up front how hackles could be raised, but if it is communicated up front that this would be “unpaid,” then I’m not sure where the ire comes from. You made the choice.

    In terms of #3, the HRCI has a code of ethics by which those recertifying are expected to live up to (http://www.hrci.org/codeofethics/).

  2. Thanks for the lengthy and thoughtful response, Matt.

    I think I need to point out first that this post is primarily about the perception of HR from an outsider’s point of view, and not directly about the practice complained about (volunteers and HRCI credits).

    But I was very taken with his comment that no one else treats conference *workers*(not planners, which this guy wasn’t talking about)the way HR does. What does this say about the practices that HR keeps defending and perpetuating as acceptable? And I’m not sure whether it matters about whether they knew up front or not, because it’s about the practice of making people pay a fee to help, whether people accept it or not.

    Many people who know me know that I am kind of a volunteer junkie. Right now I actively volunteer with 2 different SHRM locals, my civic/subdivision association, and my local humane society. The humane society recently had a fundraiser that needed similar help setting up and running. There was a fee to get in, but they didn’t ask the volunteers to pay to get in and then work. If you were a volunteer at the event, you got in for free.

    I appreciate that different chapters and councils might handle this differently. But I think the bad vibes remain. HR wants a lot of stuff done for free. And others notice.

    As to HRCI credits – I know all about the code of ethics, but that is not the same as enforcement. The sad truth is that getting recert credits without doing the actual development is easy, easy, easy.

  3. HR managers do have a set way of viewing the world. I think your article comes at a really important time given that we increasingly live in the innovation period. I also feel that criticism of HR policies is justified to some extent!
    I feel a lot of it has to with the burden of the role. The academic work one must complete in order to evaluate a person seems ridiculous at times. Also the requirements of managing an employee cycle as a process and not worrying the essence of dynamic spirit of human beings seems worrying to say the least. Can the HR not be engaged in full time networking to find great employees or understanding employees on a more human level?

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