Does HR Have An Identity Crisis?



When The Huffington Post recently published a blog by Vala Afshar titled “The Top 100 Most Social Human Resource Experts on Twitter” a small storm erupted about who – and who was not – on that list. But what caught my attention wasn’t the list itself, but the words used to describe some of the people the author included in that list: “organizational development, HR technologies, compensation and benefits, strategic talent development, recruiting, and future of work domain experts.”

In other words, it’s an HR list with a lot of people called something other than HR,  from someone who claims to believe that HR “is one of the most important functions in business.”  So why does he include so many different “areas” of HR? Or are they not areas at all – but different functions that are not really HR but do support it? Because if they are all HR – there’s no need to differentiate, is there?

Think of it this way – if you list the “Top 100 Most Social Dentists on Twitter”, you list dentists – not hygienists, receptionists, insurance billers, or the vendor who sold them their computer programs or polishing equipment. All of those people may be important to and supportive of the dentist and his/her dental practice, but they are not dentists. They have different occupations and titles.

So what is HR? Does it have an identity that we can qualify, or is it whatever hodge-podge of loosely related occupations we want it to be?

Here are a few things that I think make someone an HR pro, without any other label or job description. To be labeled HR, you should have at least one. The more you have, the more weight your HR status would be given.


  1. Certification SHRM and its affiliates invest a lot of time and effort into creating standards and tests that make sure  HR pros have at least some actual knowledge of what constitutes HR. Based on my experience with a bar exam and the SPHR exam, I can tell your for a personal certainty that the SPHR exam is hard. If someone took the time to prepare for and pass this exam, they are a pro in my book, regardless of what their actual job is.
  2. Education I’m not a believer in the idea that pros need to have a degree in HR., but I do believe that a college education is necessary. It proves that you have the ability to stay on task and to learn. Using that  lawyerly term again – the kind of degree goes to the weight of your status, not the existence of HR status itself.
  3. Experience – Even if you are not certified or don’t have a degree, you can still be an HR pro if you have done some real HR work for a business that is paying you money to do it. Like fired someone. Or held open enrollment. Maybe counseled and/or trained a manager.  Whatever the experience, it needs to be real experience that HR pros really deal with and learn from (so as to help others). No debates about whether or not HR should be the perfume or body odor police. They often are, so their experience counts. You don’t have to be #TrenchHR now – if you were at one time.

Of course, if you want to be a social HR pro, then your qualifications should be listed or otherwise discoverable through social media. And it doesn’t matter if you are  a pundit, professor, or practitioner, you’ve earned your HR stripes.

Please tell me what you think! What makes someone an HR practitioner, without need for further explanation or title?

2nd Annual Tim Sackett Day – Paul Hebert



Somehow I missed the first Tim Sackett day.

Maybe it was because last year at this time I was coping with a recent move from Michigan to Florida. Maybe it was because January 23rd is the day before my birthday and I’m always feeling too sorry for myself and my fading years to give a shit about anyone else.

But I am here for the second Tim Sackett day. I am here to honor a HR practitioner who does great work but isn’t likely to end up on an arbitrary influencer list.

I’m here because I know and love Paul Hebert.

I met Paul in early November 2009, at the very first HRevolution in Louisville. Paul led what we came to call the “baby blogger” session – the session for people who were beginning HR bloggers or thinking about blogging, or who didn’t blog but who didn’t have anywhere else to go. With kindness, thoughtfulness, and the smartest sense of humor I have ever seen, Paul taught that group of wide-eyed, blogger innocents that it was okay to try, to fail, and to try again. There are several of us from that class who started blogging about HR and related issues after that class – and are still doing so today.

Since then, Paul has been a help to me anytime I have asked him for it – and even if I didn’t.  He showed up at my Twitter #SHRMChat last October when we were discussing maximizing membership, just to be supportive and because he knows everything about incentivizing your people there is to know.


Now he  is inspiring me in a different way.

Paul has cancer, you see. Cancer scares the shit out of me, because three of my siblings have already died from cancer, and my mother had it, too, although her heart quit before the cancer killed her.  To me the big C is more of a matter of when, and not if.

But Paul is facing his cancer with his customary wicked humor and smart style. He started a blog called Peestrong – bladder cancer, so the title of the blog perfectly reflects his smarts – where he details his journey through this debilitating illness. I find myself reading his entries over and over, hoping that I can face my eventual cancer with the same type of thought and graceful wit he has shown me.

Yes, Paul is a force in the online, #trenchHR world that deserves recognition and credit. To me, though, he is much, much more.

Check him out – I know you won’t be sorry.